SME Logo
Humans of Manufacturing
Printing Life

Dr. Jonathan Morris Pioneers Novel Use for Additive Manufacturing, Helps to Save Hundreds of Lives

Pretend for a moment you’re a surgeon, preparing to operate on a patient. Years of training and experience tell you what you should find within, but the human body is an imperfect machine; the exact shape and location of blood vessels, nerves, and bone within each of us is unique, never mind what happens when tumors and birth defects change the rules. A physician’s skill notwithstanding, there’s always some uncertainty over where the next incision should be placed, a clamp tightened, impromptu adjustments and life-altering decisions made with the clock ticking all the while.

Now imagine a surgery where two young lives are at stake. This was the case 11 years ago when Mayo Clinic radiologists Dr. Jane Matsumoto and Dr. Jonathan Morris were asked to assist with the imaging involved in the separation of conjoined twins. Dozens of physicians were involved, each concerned with accurately and efficiently separating the two children. It would become a turning point in his career.

“It was a very complex anatomical problem,” he said. “The surgeon told us that, in cases like these, the only person in the room who can really mentally visualize the life-size three-dimensional data from the CT scan and MRI scans is the radiologist. They needed a way to get the information out of that person’s brain and make it available to the surgical team, so they could better understand the locations of all the arteries, bile ducts, organs, and relationships to the chest wall... So, he asked if we could print a 3D model of the twins’ liver.”

Dr. Jonathan MorrisHis experience with additive manufacturing goes back to 2001. While working for the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Morris leveraged a 3D printer at the nearby Bethesda Navy Hospital to build a set of pedicle screw trajectory guides, patient-specific jigs that help the surgeon drill screw holes in the correct position. Since then, his efforts to use 3D printing to improve patient outcomes has continued. After the success of the first twin separation, the methodology used to image and print human body parts continued to improve, and under the guidance of Dr. Morris and Dr. Matsumoto, the Mayo Clinic has since opened an in-hospital 3D printing lab at its main campus in Rochester, MN. Today the team prints more than 500 clinical models each year, helping surgeons treat patients with congenital scoliosis, remove primary bone tumors, such as chondrosarcomas, and Pancoast tumors, repair cranial and maxillofacial injuries, and more.

“The 3D-printed models have helped them pioneer different surgeries,” Dr. Morris said. “Instead of simply removing a leg or a kidney to treat a tumor, they’re able to attempt multiple simulated surgeries on a physical model of the patient until they determine the best approach. And once they perform the actual surgery, it goes much more quickly. Blood loss is reduced, the patient is under anesthesia for less time, less invasive approaches can be performed, and the recovery time is shorter. In some cases it can also help reduce overall medical costs.”

Dr. Morris says this isn’t like printing a boat propeller. He and his team have had to become Class II medical device manufacturers within the confines of a hospital, and pushed the boundaries of 3D printing along the way. Special software tools to assist in radiographic image processing (called segmentation) have been created. They’ve developed complete quality assurance programs, and protocols for servicing of the printers in a hospital setting. As decisions were being made about surgical care based on the models, simple concerns such as left vs. right and mirroring of the images became life or death questions. And as the use of the team’s models increased, reliability had to be assured.

“If you're operating on an infant's heart that's the size of a walnut, and you're planning to send a surgical instrument inside a blood vessel three millimeters across, accuracy becomes critical,” said Dr. Morris. “We’ve learned to create test coupons, so we could verify machine calibration. And we’ve worked extensively with the printer companies to assure zero downtime. If I put a 48-hour print job on the machine, there can’t be any worries about whether it will finish in time, or if the build is going to crash. The patient's life is at stake. That’s how important this technology has become.”


What is Humans of Manufacturing?

Humans of Manufacturing is an initiative developed by SME to address misconceptions about manufacturing careers. Emphasis has been on products and companies, but not on the everyday people who make it happen. Humans of Manufacturing will showcase that manufacturing today is an advanced, highly valued industry that involves innovation and technology - and the human element.




Humans of Manufacturing
Metal Grinder Overcomes Fears, Perseveres to Secure a Good Life for Her Family

Sam Robinson has Grown Stronger, More Confident Thanks to West Virginia Women Work Pre-Apprenticeship Program

For Samantha “Sam” Robinson, the West Virginia Women Work (WVWW) Pre-Apprenticeship program in manufacturing gave her new confidence in her abilities to provide for her four young children—ages six, five, three, and nine months.

“The program reminded me I could be more than what my situation provided—that I was able to do more and excel at it,” she explained.

Newly separated, Robinson is still adjusting to her new life. A self-described loner, she knew she had to pluck up the courage to move forward after the abrupt change in her family life. “I knew I needed to do something for my kids, to better my life and theirs,” she recalled.

After seeing a post on Facebook, Robinson made a call to the WVWW and asked about its pre-apprenticeship program in manufacturing, which operates in conjunction with the Robert C. Byrd Institute and includes flexible online workforce education from Tooling U-SME and hands-on training from the RCBI machine shop.

“To think about the interview was nerve-wracking!” Robinson noted. “It took a lot of stepping up, but I did it, and I got into the program.”

She started classes in May 2017. By her own account, she is mechanically inclined and she learned very fast. Focusing on lathe and millwork, Robinson reviewed the Tooling U-SME classes prior to going into the lab. “I wanted to familiarize myself with the equipment before I got to class—it made things easier,” she said.

Robinson got to know the other women in the program, made a few friends and rose to the top of her class. She also won a trophy in a competition that involved following a blueprint and completing a project on the lathe and mill in one day. Her life was getting better.

By the time she graduated from the program in August 2017, Robinson was already interviewing for jobs. She was put on a wait list at Huntington, W.Va.-based Special Metals Co., a 130-acre campus for the development, production and sales of high-nickel alloys for critical engineering. Robinson impressed the company so much that she was hired two weeks prior to the opening start date.

“I was excited and nervous at the same time; it's not like me to step out and do something different,” she noted.

Currently a Level 6 stocker and a Level 8 grinder, Robinson is making close to $16 per hour with additional overtime pay. She intends to reach the highest level as a grinder. “There are five grinders here,” she said, “and I want to learn each one and move on up.” She also can drive a forklift and run a crane.

The company provides vacation pay, all health benefits and new equipment every year. Robinson plans to take advantage of Special Metals’ tiered system to bid for open jobs. “If you get the job, they will fully train you and move you right up the ladder,” she said.

The favorite part of her job? Learning to do something new, and having the means to take care of her children and regular work hours, so she can spend time with them.

“It feels awesome that I can provide for my children without working all the time,” she said. “I don't have to choose between time with them or working because something is due.”

Working in a male-dominated industry, Robinson has received some pushback, but she doesn’t let it deter her from the job. “They may give me a few reasons I can't do something, but they don't realize they just made me want to show them I can do it—and will do it better,” she explained.

It took a lot of strength for Robinson to overcome her fears and persevere to secure a good life for her family and her kids. She has become independent and more confident, and loves her job.

“It's pretty cool knowing the metal I look at every day will be turned into something important someday,” Robinson said.

When asked what she would say to others thinking about the program, she said, “Step out. Step up! Be better than the world sees you because you are. The sky’s the limit! Without West Virginia Women Work, I know I wouldn't be where I am today. I don't have to worry about my kids anymore. I’m a stronger person than I was six months ago.”

Humans of Manufacturing
Whitney Sample empowers disabled children to live normal lives

A self-professed techno geek helps design, build Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton

He will tell you he’s not an engineer. Nor is he a machinist. But if it weren’t for Whitney Sample’s expertise in design and manufacturing, Emma, Norah, and dozens of other disabled children would remain unable to play, draw, and “just be kids.”

Sample’s work began in the mid-90s at the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, (DE). It’s there that he helped design and then built a device called Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX). The designs are available on the Internet today, but back then there were no websites where users could download 3D CAD models. Whitney had to figure it out on his own.

WREX makes kids’ arms feel weightless, an excellent thing when you’re born with a degenerative muscle disease. The technical term is gravity balanced forearm orthosis, and it’s good for a whole host of diseases, including arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and others. It even helps older people who may have contracted Parkinson’s disease or suffered a stroke, and are no longer able to care for themselves. WREX gives people young and old alike a chance for a better life.

SampleIt wasn’t his idea—WREX’s basic geometry started as a university graduate student project. Whitney was the guy who made the theoretical possible, machining and fitting and fabricating the parts until he had it right. It took him six months to build the first one, far too long considering the countless children in need. As a self-professed techno geek, Whitney had been following 3D printing since its inception, and knew it was just the ticket for faster throughput and lighter-weight devices than his metal prototypes. He convinced the hospital to invest in a 3D printer.

“It was a blessing and a curse,” Sample said. “You love the fact that you can make the changes so quickly, but on the other hand it’s a little maddening because you can change things so quickly. I was literally making design modifications overnight and testing them the next day. Regardless, we were able to crank parts out a lot faster, and that meant we could help a lot more kids in less time.”

The 3D printer supplier caught wind of what Sample was doing and sent a filmmaker to document the story. In August of 2012, the video went viral, and when a Minneapolis design firm learned of Sample’s work, one thing led to another and the non-profit firm Magic Arms was born. The organization has since outfitted more than 100 children with orthotic devices and has another 150 on its waiting list.

Through it all, Sample has helped manufacture countless orthotic components, first at DuPont and later for Magic Arms. He’s no longer working at the hospital, though—weary of the slow pace of adoption and lack of funding for this important work, he opened the consulting firm Square Pebble Design two years ago. It’s stated mission? “To create adaptive solutions to a challenging world for those in need of a special assistance.”

“The user base that I developed over the years has made a point of reaching out to me and staying in touch,” said Sample. “I do little side projects for them here and there, fixing broken devices, house calls on lifts and wheelchairs, stuff like that. It's never been a job that pays really well, but I've never been in it for the money; I’m in it to help people. That’s what I love to do.”

Humans of Manufacturing
Manufacturing Hope

Professor’s students manufacture devices to help people with disabilities

It’s easy to grow despondent. Every day it seems there’s more bad news, another sad story, the future of humanity increasingly uncertain … Still, there’s hope. The world is filled with people willing to help others in need. Some give their time, others money, but no matter how small the gesture or the manner in which it is offered, the majority of us are spurred by a deep-seated desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves. For Joseph Mollendorf, that drive has become a way of life.

A professor at the University at Buffalo Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Mollendorf has a passion for making things. He’s built model airplanes since he was a kid, worked on his car as a student when he couldn’t afford to pay others to do it, and likes to “take things apart just to see how they work.” He even played a small part in the success of the Apollo 11 moon landing by working on the Lunar Excursion Module ascent engine during the summer of 1966.

In 1990, he and a number of his colleagues in academia were awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), named “Engineering Senior Design Projects to Aid the Disabled.” Mollendorf took the proverbial ball and ran with it. For the next two decades, he would mentor young people in the art of manufacturing.

Professor and studentsMollendorf walked them through the basics of design, showed them how to cut metal and form plastic, encouraged them to adhere to a schedule and collaborate on projects, and taught them to apply for patents. Good stuff, to be sure, but the best part of the story is this: along the way, his students manufactured nearly 600 devices to help people with disabilities live better lives.

Their projects were diverse: a tilt-lift automotive seat to help those with muscular disorders become mobile; a portable object detector for the visually impaired; exercise and stretching equipment to improve strength and flexibility in the disabled; coat racks, shopping carts, automated cabinetry, and a whole host of accessories designed for those confined to wheelchairs. Year after year Mollendorf assisted with these important projects, enriching the lives of his students while making life easier for the program’s physically challenged recipients.

Mollendorf’s participation in the NSF program ended in 2010, yet he continues to help where he can. One notable example was a tricycle that two of his students designed and built for a university staff member who’d been injured in an accident. Because there were no funds available for materials, Joseph paid for them out of his own pocket, using a stipend he’d received for achieving status as a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor.

That was facilitated by another project Mollendorf recently undertook, with support from the Dean, who leveraged a New York State High Needs Fund to revamp the university machine shop. Fresh paint, several new machine tools, and a good bit of reorganization later, Mollendorf has renovated a facility where students can learn the basics of a milling machine and lathe operation, quality control, and CNC programming. He also instituted an after-hours policy, providing greater access to all and making it easier for anyone interested in manufacturing to avail themselves of the equipment.

“I always wanted to go into teaching, but I'm sort of a bottom line guy, as well as a big believer in manufacturing,” he said. “I love helping the students make devices and it’s great that some of those efforts have assisted others in need. But I also like seeing the light bulb turn on in someone’s head when they learn something new. I’ve been doing this now for 43 years. I’ve had many thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to careers in manufacturing. When my wife retired a few years ago, we discussed what I was going to do next, whether I should retire as well, but I just can’t do it. I love it here. I can't think of one good reason why I shouldn't continue.”

Humans of Manufacturing
Limitations are Opportunities

In Dave Kuehl’s Quiet World, Nothing is Impossible

Dave Kuehl was in his late twenties when he applied at Du Fresne Manufacturing, a fabrication shop in Vadnais Heights, (MN). He had no experience with sheet metal, but was working two jobs to support his family and needed a break. Owner Robert Du Fresne put him to work in the assembly area. He soon earned a reputation as a solid, dependable worker. Since Kuehl was always looking for overtime, he was allowed to move around to whatever department was busiest, but eventually settled into the bending area, where he learned to operate and then program press brakes. After 14 years at Du Fresne Manufacturing, Kuehl was recently promoted to engineering.

Kuehl’s story will ring true with anyone who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It’s often no easy task, but manufacturing offers countless such opportunities—success is simply a matter of working hard and grabbing the breaks when they come, right? In fact, his career path might seem fairly ordinary except for one thing: Kuehl is speech and hearing impaired.

Dave Kuehl“I started him out inserting hardware because I figured you don’t need much in the way of communication skills there,” said Du Fresne. “But Dave’s such a great guy to work with, the people around him started picking up sign language, and pretty soon he could work in any of the departments. The problem came when we ran out of ways for him to advance his skill set. He was kind of stuck as a press brake operator with no way up.”

Two years ago, Du Fresne saw an opportunity for Kuehl to further his career when the company purchased a pair of high-end automated press brakes. He needed someone to learn how to setup and program the new machines—the first of their kind in Minnesota—so he put up an internal job posting and let the word trickle down that Kuehl should apply. To Du Fresne, it was part of the obligation for opportunity, or oblitunity, that he feels is owed to all employees.

“With some encouragement from his coworkers, he signed up, and I thought, ‘This is great, it’ll be his first big promotion,’” said Du Fresne. “We were all really happy that he’d decided to go for it. But the next day we saw that someone had scratched his name off the list.”

After some digging, the department head found out that it was Kuehl himself who’d retracted his name. Du Fresne called him to his office to discuss the matter, and soon learned that the press brake operator didn’t want to leave his friends on the shop floor, who were able to “sign” with Kuehl—a programming position would mean moving to the office.

“‘Dave, your world is quiet,’ I told him. ‘I'll put your programming station right next to the machine. You don’t have to leave your friends, you can sit in a chair, work on CAD files, and help out down there. You can stay in the world you’re comfortable working in, no problem.’ He thought about it for an hour or so and agreed to give it a try.”

The next challenge was training. Since it would be difficult to send Kuehl to a classroom in Chicago, Du Fresne brought the classroom to Kuehl. And even though the trainer was at first skeptical when he learned his student could neither hear nor speak, he was soon proven wrong.

“I remember the guy looked at me like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’” said Du Fresne. “Then he warned me that he had to leave by the end of the week, that’s all the time he could spend. But the next afternoon he knocked on my door to tell me he was finished with the training. ‘I showed Dave everything one time and that’s all it took for him to master it. There nothing more I can teach him.’”

Within the first six months, Kuehl programmed nearly one thousand jobs. Today he helps train others in the press brake area, people he once had to go to for help, and will soon take on his new position in the engineering department. When asked how Kuehl became such a quick learner (and an awesome employee), Du Fresne said it’s because he’s had to be that way to survive. “I'm not speech and hearing impaired, so I can't really say, but I think it’s because his whole life molded him this way. Otherwise he would have been left behind. All I can say for sure is that we’re glad to have him.”

Humans of Manufacturing
The Power of Design

Professor uses 3D Printing to Help Children, Soldiers.

Shea, Bella, Haley, Evan—these are just a few of the children that Frankie Flood has fitted with prosthetic hands over the years. An associate art professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, (NC), Flood’s profession is teaching students the intricacies of digital manufacturing and metalsmithing. His passion is helping others, whether it’s making superheroes out of disabled kids or soldiers who’ve been hurt while serving our country.

Flood grew up in a farming community, so was surrounded by machinery and equipment during his early years, and on weekends helped his father tinker on various projects. But it wasn’t until his college years that he became heavily involved in manufacturing. His summer months were spent working at a printing company, then later at a tool and die shop. He became interested in jewelry making along the way, melding his passion for making beautiful yet functional objects with his nascent fabrication skills.

Flood put those skills to work while teaching at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. He built his own 3D printer, and through collaboration with the then fledgling volunteer group e-NABLE, helped develop prosthetic hands for children who’d been born with missing fingers or had suffered amputations. And rather than profit by his work, he and the others at e-NABLE made their designs open source, then helped patients and their families take advantage of the new technology.

“Our first e-NABLE sponsored hand was called the Raptor,” said Flood. “We had a number of workshops where we’d size the child's hand and provide the parents with a matching parts kit and they’d assemble it together with their kid, step by step. It was almost like going to a shoe store, so for maybe twenty to fifty dollars, they’d have a working assistive device. It was something that anyone could do.”

The group helped hundreds of children over the course of these “handathons” and word of their activities spread. Flood soon received an email from Gerald Ortiz of Melody America, a non-profit group helping wounded veterans through music. The two exchanged ideas about printing musical instruments, but they ended up working on a different type of project.

“At one point, he asked if it would be possible to make leg coverings for prosthetic legs, to restore their anatomical shape,” said Flood. “I thought it would be a great project for a few of the seniors in the university’s digital fabrication program, and they thought so too.”

After some initial prototyping work, the students spoke with Sergeant Eric Rodriguez, a Marine Corps veteran who’d lost his left leg in Afghanistan. They learned his interests, his favorite colors, and each designed a custom leg covering for the wounded warrior. The team has since gone on to form a group called Next Step, and after entering their design in and winning the Infymakers challenge, received funding to continue their work.

Flood says 3D printing has allowed him to change what would otherwise be seen as a disability into a positive attribute. “Even the kids who weren’t disabled would look at the assistive device as if it was a superhero hand. Pretty soon classmates were asking for a 3D printed hand too. And that was the moment when we realized, ‘Wow! This has the potential to change people’s mindsets about disabilities.’ It removes the stigma associated with wearing a prosthesis, and helps them realize their dreams. That’s the power of design.”

Humans of Manufacturing
Seamstress Applies Her Fashion Passion to Designing Robot Covers

Wayne State University Student Studies Fashion Design, is now a Technical Field Specialist.

Growing up, Lynnette Gideon always wanted to be a fashion designer. A lifelong seamstress, the Romeo, (MI), native created her own sewing patterns as a teenager, so it was only natural that she would seek a degree in fashion design and merchandising at Wayne State University in Detroit. But life has a way of throwing curve balls when not expected.

In 2000, Lynnette’s father, who was working at Fanuc America, Rochester Hills, (MI), had asked T.D. Industrial Coverings (TDIC), Sterling Heights, (MI), to design a cover for an automotive robot he was working on. TDIC designers, using his robot as a dress form, cut and stapled a prototype cover for the robot at his work station — this work reminded him of his daughter’s career aspirations, so he mentioned her talents to TDIC management. Timing is everything, and it just so happened that TDIC was hiring more design technicians, and his daughter was interested in interviewing with the company.

“The rest is history,” Gideon said. Her formal education paralleled this new career opportunity. “When I first started at TDIC, they had just invested in CAD for patternmaking, and I embraced the technology. When I discovered how fast I could create a new robot cover pattern or modify an existing pattern with just a few clicks of the mouse, I was hooked. Since the timeline of my career and college career were synchronous, I was allowed to utilize the CAD system at TDIC for my college fashion design assignments. My professors enjoyed learning how we could utilize this patternmaking software for clothing in addition to robot covers.”

Seamstress Applies Her Fashion Passion to Designing Robot CoversTDIC uses Lectra software and hardware for its patternmaking design and automatic cutting, and the company invested in 3D scanning and printing technologies to increase design accuracy and speed. While the process of robot cover design maybe static, the covers themselves are anything but standard. TDIC has designed nearly 23,000 unique custom covers to date.

“Clients often ask for a ‘standard cloth robot cover,’ but I explain to them that every robot installation is different,” said Gideon. “The base robot model may be standard, but there is usually extra equipment added on. The type of material being sprayed is unique to each application, and the part being manufactured or worked on by the robot adds its own challenges. Throw in personal preferences by the humans that work with the robots and you end up with a custom cover.”

Recently Gideon was promoted to the position of technical field specialist, a position she says allows her to travel to auto plants outside of Michigan to win new clients and serve as a liaison to manage clients’ programs.

Gideon has come a long way, personally and professionally. “I started my career as a shy, introverted, yet idealistic 19-year-old, so it took me years to grow my intrapersonal skills,” said Gideon. “I have learned that along with professionalism and aptitude, customers value my authenticity.”

According to Gideon, one of the problems America faces is the monumental task of becoming more ecologically aware in the industry space. “I would like to see a “green” revolution in the automotive industry,” said Gideon. “Many OEMS are developing hybrid or electric vehicles, but the painting of all cars is still a toxic mess. TDIC offers a service where we launder and repair used covers and sell them back to the plants at a discounted price. Not all OEMS utilize this convenience, and others simply can’t due to the nature of their paint.”

Looking to the future Lynnette hopes people remember her as a woman with integrity. “I also hope to be a good mentor to new employees and help them grow to be successful,” she said.

Gideon married her husband Chris in 2006 and the couple enjoys traveling, art, music, and bicycle rides. Her personal hobbies are wide-ranging. These pursuits, along with her career, have grounded her. “I am fully present when things from many different facets of my life seem to click together to reveal a bigger picture.”

Humans of Manufacturing
Finding Courage to Face the Future

This Chrysler assembly line worker learned how to live in the moment after her cancer diagnosis.

Ally Lucaj, a 45-year-old, divorced mother of three and Chrysler assembly line worker, is a survivor. After she found the courage to leave a bad marriage, she was forced to move her children back to her parent’s house. She diligently searched for a full-time job, applying at Chrysler in April 2012 while she worked as a waitress.

A year later, while waiting for a position at the company to open, Lucaj received devastating news from her doctor: a cancer diagnosis, which required two immediate surgeries and chemotherapy.

In July 2013, during her recovery, Chrysler offered her a position, but Lucaj was forced to turn it down. She received a second chance from the automaker a month later and accepted the position, knowing it would be her last chance, even though she was still recovering. She does not regret her decision, even though it was tough.

Lucaj says she has received so much from Chrysler including stability, the opportunity for advancement, tuition reimbursement, the ability to pay her bills and buy a house for her family—and, most importantly, health insurance for herself and her children, one of whom has Type 1 diabetes and needs lifetime medical attention.

The roller coaster ride taught her not only to have patience, but to live in the moment. I realize nothing is promised and it is important to keep a positive attitude,” Lucaj said.

These are lessons she has passed on to her kids. “I tell them to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves, but know when to stop and adjust to the current circumstances,” she added.

Lucaj works on the Dodge RAM assembly line installing carpet and assisting in back window installation. She says the job is physically demanding, and it took her two years after her cancer diagnosis to regain her strength. “It takes teamwork to build a quality truck and we all rely on each other,” she said.

Lucaj does not fear the robot revolution prevalent in today’s manufacturing plants because “robots cannot replace humans,” due to the need for accuracy in building cars. “Robots can do part of the job, but it still takes a human to complete the job,” she added.

Human innovation is needed to keep the manufacturing process running smoothly and efficiently, and Chrysler encourages its employees to share ways to save money and reduce waste through the use of the Kaizen method—a Japanese management concept of continuous improvement, as well as a way-of-life philosophy.

The foundation of Kaizen is based on five principles: teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. In business and manufacturing, it allows for people to perform experiments on their work procedures using the scientific method, and to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.

The Kaizen philosophy not only encourages change in business practices and manufacturing processes at the management level, it also trusts and respects the people involved in making the product—such as assembly line workers—to cultivate innovative ideas on how to improve their own work process and increase their productivity. “If I see a better way to do things, I write it up and pass it on to management,” Lucaj explained.

Being a trusted member of the Chrysler family has given Ally Lucaj the courage to face the future, which is bright indeed for her and her family. “I am in remission and have been cancer-free for three years," she said. “Chrysler has given me back my life again. They have given me everything,”

Humans of Manufacturing
A Love Affair with Flying

GE Engineer Credits Grandfather for Introducing Him to Aircraft, Flying

At the young age of two, Joshua Mook fell in love with aircraft — his grandfather, a pilot, introduced him to flying by taking him on a ride in the family plane. Little did Mook know his passion for aircraft and flying would put him on the path to become an engineering leader at GE Additive — the division of GE dedicated to additive manufacturing, which is a way of printing parts layer by layer as one piece that’s expected to revolutionize manufacturing. (For more on Josh's story and on additive manufacturing, see him on YouTube).

“My grandfather flew for pleasure … he would use any excuse to fly,” said Mook. “It was 1984 when I went on my first airplane ride with my grandfather. He gave me a certificate for flying that day — that is something I will always remember. Flying turned out to be our weekend thing that we did together — we bonded during flying.”

Besides introducing Mook to flying, his grandfather also taught him one of the most valuable lessons in life — to help others and treat them as you would want to be treated.

“The number one thing I remember about my grandfather is that he was always looking for a way to help other people,” said Mook. “That was really influential on me and how I treat people today.”

Flight Across AmericaAs a rite of passage for soon-to-be adults, many teenagers look forward to getting their driver’s license, but for Mook a pilot’s license came before that. “I got my pilot’s license at the age of 16,” chuckled Mook.

Even though he became a pilot during his high school years, Mook considered himself a typical kid — an “engineering kid” that is. “I was always taking things apart and putting them back together.

“I’ve always wanted to learn what makes something tick, perform, and work,” said Mook. “There is something in my personality that draws me to solve problems. And besides having a passion for flying I also love math and science.”

For some time Mook considered a career as a pilot, but he decided to study engineering. Mook went to Purdue University and received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. He then attended the University of Cincinnati and received a Master of Science in the same field.

“I wanted to do something where I could combine all my passions — flying, math and science — and engineering allowed me to do just that. Art is also another passion of mine, and that has made me a successful designer. Having skills from these disciplines has given me a unique perspective in my field. As an engineer, design motivates me — designing things that no one has created before.”

Yet, Mook credits his love of flying to putting him on the path to having an engineering career in the aerospace industry. “My time as a pilot made me respect the technology,” said Mook. “Jet engines are a symphony of complex components working together.”

Mook finds his job in additive manufacturing exciting, because this new method of production is changing the way everything is designed. “There is so much science in this that at times designing the perfect combustion engine feels like magic,” said Mook.

“Every industry is ripe for design disruption, and this is completely shifting how engineers approach a problem, which is really exciting,” added Mook. “The next generation will grow up with possibilities we couldn’t have imagined.”

For more on Josh's story and on additive manufacturing, check out the video below.



What is Humans of Manufacturing?

Humans of Manufacturing is an initiative developed by SME to address misconceptions about manufacturing careers. Emphasis has been on products and companies, but not on the everyday people who make it happen. Humans of Manufacturing will showcase that manufacturing today is an advanced, highly valued industry that involves innovation and technology - and the human element.