ManufacturingJuly 7, 2020

SIMULIA Talks: Interview with Rachel Fu about Additive Manufacturing and COVID-19

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with Rachel Fu, an…
Avatar Katie Corey

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with Rachel Fu, an Industry Strategic Initiatives, Portfolio Technical Director with SIMULIA, as she discusses how the demand for specific products like hand sanitizer, facemasks and cleaning supplies has skyrocketed over the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear from Rachel as she describes the benefits of optimizing supply chain production with our additive manufacturing technology. SIMULIA’s easy to use, 3DEXPERIENCE Platform provides you the tools to test product designs for strength, durability and other important factors, in a swift and easy manner, on the cloud, and before physical prototypes are brought into production. SIMULIA’s software allows for best in class optimization with the fast turnarounds to accommodate the needs of today.

Q: What is your name and title? 

Rachel Fu:

My name is Rachel Fu and I work for Dassault Systèmes and my title is Industry Strategic Initiatives, Portfolio Technical Director.

Q: Can you tell me please in your own words what’s going on in the world right now?

Rachel Fu:

Well, I think there’s a lot of interesting things going on, obviously the effects of the virus on people who have been sick, and the hospital infrastructure has been really huge. I think there’s a lot of different social impacts that everybody is feeling in terms of everybody being isolated, a lot of new mechanisms for how everybody is working, how people are doing commerce, how people are interacting. A lot of new norms I think are kind of emerging.

Q: Well, that’s really interesting. Tell me what you mean by new norms emerging?

Rachel Fu:

Well, I think the situation of everybody working from home is kind of a new normal, but everybody is more or less adjusted to that. I know for factories they’re having to change the way they’ve normally done things. So they’re having to have at least the factories who’ve reopened having to have people that are six feet apart even though they’re both working on assembling the same part, say, so really trying to find ways to, to kind of be socially isolated but still functional as a society.

Q: In your own words, what’s the supply chain?

Rachel Fu:

So to me, supply chain is really as a consumer it’s how we get our goods. But it’s bigger than that, than just how I get my groceries or how I get my consumer goods. It’s also when I go to a restaurant, how do they get their supply of groceries that they’re using or how are these things manufactured? Where are they manufactured? How are they shipped? And how are they housed and how did they kind of come to the end consumer.

Q: How was this crisis affecting the supply chain?

Rachel Fu:

I think what’s happening is really interesting because we live in times where everything is hyper optimized and I think the supply chain is part of that. So it’s hyper optimized to be very efficient for the one thing that it does in the system. So the one product that develops or the one channel that it distributes through to get to a specific party, it’s very efficient for that. But what comes with this kind of hyper optimization is that it’s not very flexible. So what we’re seeing now is there’s this disruption and the disruption is impacting industries in different ways. And then you have this very optimized supply chain, which cannot adjust quickly to these disruptions that are happening. And so I think it’s very interesting that we as a society kind of drive towards being very efficient, but we’re seeing, “Oh, but we’ve lost a lot of flexibility or adaptability because we are so efficient in the way we get goods to people.”

Q: Do I remember correctly, did you have this really interesting sort of observation about, was it frozen potatoes?

Rachel Fu:

Yeah. So one of the interesting stories I’ve seen about supply chain is why are there no frozen potatoes at the grocery store? Um, and the answer is not that there are not enough potatoes in the world, the answer is that the supply chain is geared towards people who eat frozen potatoes at restaurants. So the supply chain is to get frozen potatoes to restaurants, which is where people will consume them later. It’s not geared towards everybody buying frozen potatoes and keeping a whole bunch in their freezer. So, it’s just kind of this random thing of why are there no frozen potatoes? It’s not related to the actual supply. It’s just related to how that supply is used to getting to you as the consumer.

Q: Who would have thought that the frozen potato industry would be affected by this?

Rachel Fu:

Yeah. And just nobody could, nobody can foresee these things, but we’re living it.

Q: In your own words, what is additive manufacturing?

Rachel Fu:

Well, so additive manufacturing by definition is a process where you are manufacturing a part in kind of a layer by layer manner. So you’re kind of more or less tracing out the outline of different slices of the part, um, as you’re kind of building up the part. So it means different things for metals. So for metals, usually you have kind of a laser that’s moving along this path and wherever it’s melting is what’s, you know, kind of solidifying and becoming your part. If we’re talking about plastics, it’s more think about kind of like your toothpaste. It’s kind of like a toothpaste tube, depositing molten plastic along a specific contour to build your part of interest effectively. So it’s by definition any manufacturing process that is kind of a layer by layer.

What it really means is that it’s kind of manufacturing process that has a lot of openness to it. So, when we think about, say, injection molding of parts, we need to know exactly the part we’re going to build because we need to have this hugely expensive mold that’s created to be able to create these injection molded parts. But for additive, we have a lot of freedom. There’s no infrastructure around it. We can simply tell our machine, this is the design I want you to build. I do not need to develop infrastructure around that so go ahead and build that and that’s kind of one of the key benefits I would say of additive manufacturing.

Q: So how do these two things relate? How does additive manufacturing relate to the supply chain then?

Rachel Fu:

Well, so because, as I’ve mentioned, it’s kind of this low infrastructure type of manufacturing. It’s really kind of able to fill in some of these gaps that we’re seeing in the supply chain. So, you know, again, the supply chain is hyper optimized to do what it’s doing well. The manufacturing companies, they have all of the infrastructure set up to manufacture what they need but disruption comes, it takes companies time to change a lot of the infrastructure that goes with manufacturing. But because additive does not have this constraint of needing to have a big factory set up specifically for this process or for specifically manufacturing this particular design or this part, it’s able to kind of fill in the gaps. So, while the supply chain is recovering from this disruption and the infrastructure is changing, new technologies emerging for it to be able to address these new needs.

Watch the full interview, below:

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