This week’s guest on The Killer Innovations Show has innovation experience in a variety of different industries. Jonah Myerberg is the CTO at Desktop Metal, a company that specializes in metal and carbon fiber 3D printing technology. We will discuss 3D printing and the COVID-19 innovations that Desktop Metal is doing during this pandemic.
Jonah started at Black & Decker, making power tools. He went on to work at Bose Corporations, which exposed him to a high level of innovation. The creation of A123 Systems reintroduced him to engineering, which his team eventually sold to a Chinese conglomerate. While at HP, I had the benefit of getting a personal demonstration from Dr. Bose himself. He spent 20 plus years of research on a suspension system, leading a great example of innovation. I don’t know any other organization that was committed to innovation on that scale for that amount of time. In the innovation game, some people tend to focus on the present rather than what can come in the future. Dr. Bose set a great example of how important long-term innovation is.
3D printing is an excellent example of this, as it came from “traditional” printing to the 3D printing technology we have available today. Jonah states that the huge killer innovation does not necessarily have to be your invention, but your invention can enable the next killer innovation.
Jonah was designing high-performance batteries for racing teams. While working with these racing teams, he saw how they efficiently and effectively used 3D printing to optimize their performance. He thought this technology was something that everyone should use, not just elite racers. Making 3D printing accessible to everybody who wanted to use it lead to the creation of Desktop Metal. There are so many industries that are attracted to 3D printing in one way or another. Apart from the automotive industry, consumer electronics invests heavily in single designs for small parts. The jewelry industry has to manufacture small metal parts and would love to print precious metals like silver, copper, and gold.
Judging the performance of produced parts is a traditional focal point for 3D printing. Fidelity is an essential factor in 3D printing, but performance is generally the central focus. The material needs to be strong and have the right chemistry for the intended purpose. At Desktop Metal, they realized that the big challenge is when new materials and processes get presented within 3D printing. They started with materials that were well known and commonly used. Even if the process of forming is different, many engineers feel comfortable using 3D parts built out of stainless steel because the material used is familiar.
Aiding the fight
With the current pandemic, many companies have come together to develop COVID-19 innovations to aid the situation. Desktop Metal opened its doors of technology and asked what they could do to help with the situation. They reached out to hospitals and essential workers and got a lot of feedback on needed supplies they could help out with. They had requests from the VA hospitals to make scuba masks into COVID-19 face masks, as well as ventilators for other hospitals. Swabs were one highly requested item that Desktop Metal and some other companies teamed up to develop.
When it comes to the face masks, Desktop Metal was asked by doctors to design and provide a converter that would take an N95 filter and connect it to a scuba mask. As far as the ventilators go, hospitals acquired a ton of them after they had run out. The only issue was that there was no way to connect them. They ended up printing several connector pieces and attaching them to the ventilators. These COVID-19 innovations are essential as they'll be able to help health workers and patients alike.
Advice for the Listeners
Throughout Jonah’s wide-ranging career, he has had a lot of beneficial experience. When asked for advice if he was to mentor a new innovator starting a career, Jonah’s advice is to dive in.
“Don’t be afraid to ask what needs to be fixed and try to fix it. Also, do not be afraid to fail at your attempt to fix it. Try to help people because they all have different challenges that need fixing. Don’t focus yourself in one area, instead learn broadly. Cross functionality is essential for success in innovation. Don’t reinvent the wheel; apply it in different areas.”
To know more about COVID-19 innovations and 3D printing, listen to this week's show: COVID-19 Innovations: From Scuba to Medical Face Mask With 3D Printing.