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I Was Not Trusted To Give A Lecture On A Technical Topic

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I Was Not Trusted To Give A Lecture On A Technical Topic
I Was Not Trusted To Give A Lecture On A Technical Topic

Video: I Was Not Trusted To Give A Lecture On A Technical Topic

Video: I Was Not Trusted To Give A Lecture On A Technical Topic
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Stefanie Brickwede is the managing director of “Mobility goes Additive” and head of the 3D printing group project at Deutsche Bahn AG. In an interview with our sister portal Mission Additive, she talks about the topics of additive manufacturing, "Women in AM", and the associated task of getting more women excited about specialist and managerial positions.

Mission Additive: How did you find out about additive manufacturing? Has 3D printing always been a passion of yours?

Stefanie Brickwede: As the person responsible for 3D printing at Deutsche Bahn, I was on the road with interns at CEBIT to look for exciting topics. On site, they suggested that I absolutely had to take a look at a 3D printer. I was immediately enthusiastic about the topic. I quickly had the idea that 3D printing could be a solution to our challenge of getting spare parts that we no longer have anywhere else on the market, for example for old systems and locomotives.

I think it's a great technology. I am not an engineer myself, I am an economist. In this respect, I am fascinated by the potential that lies behind it when you think about what will be possible with 3D printing in the future. From technical spare parts to medical applications using 3D printing, production is put on a much wider footing. Just that more and more people suddenly become inventors and producers and can materialize their own ideas, I find a very inspiring idea.

In addition to my professional enthusiasm, I am privately excited that I still dream of sending - with an emphasis on chic - printing orthopedic, individualized women's shoes.

Mission Additive: In the industry, sustainability is described as a major advantage of additive manufacturing. What is your position on the topic of sustainability - do you think it would help or improve the environment to manufacture more parts additively?

Brickwede: Ja, absolut. Additive Fertigung bietet die Möglichkeit, deutlich nachhaltiger zu produzieren. Das äußert sich zum einen darin, dass man ab Losgröße 1 fertigen kann und nur das Material verbraucht, das man tatsächlich für ein Bauteil benötigt. Der Prozess ist anders als bei einem spanenden Verfahren, bei dem man einen großen Block hat und einen Teil rausfräsen muss, um das fertige Produkt zu erhalten; oder dem Gießen, bei dem es immer eine Mindestabnahmemenge gibt. Das heißt, 3D-Druck ist in der eigentlichen Fertigung deutlich nachhaltiger und materialeffizienter.

In addition, you are able to use highly investing systems, machines, locomotives or airplanes for much longer, since the production of the spare parts can be guaranteed longer thanks to 3D printing. Due to the longer maintenance of the machines, the ecological backpack for the individual systems is reduced.

Furthermore, 3D printing is able to develop lighter parts and lighter mobility applications require less fuel. In addition, enormously long transport routes, for example from East Asia to Europe, can be avoided because the required parts can be printed locally.

Mission Additive: From the current environmental topic to another much-discussed topic: The quota for women and the proportion of women in general and especially in your industry. You are co-founder and managing director of MGA. Have you seen an increase in the number of female members since you launched the project?

Brickwede: That is a very important topic for me. What I can say is that women in the industry have become more visible in the past three years. Because additive manufacturing is wonderfully suited for the lateral entry of different professions. You can see it in me; I am an economist, not an engineer. I believe that we must not neglect the potential of women in this technology, especially since we already know that there are not enough people who can already think, work and design in this technology.

When we started “Women in AM” three years ago, the proportion of women in the industry was extremely low. When I was previously invited to trade fairs or events, it was often called "Dear Brickwede, dear gentlemen". I was often the only female person in the room. Thanks to “Women in AM”, things have changed noticeably.


4th AM Forum Berlin
4th AM Forum Berlin

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Mission Additive: Do you think an event like “Women in AM” can get more women excited about the 3D printing industry?

Brickwede: Yes, definitely. At “Women in AM” there are many highly intelligent, committed, very well-trained women on site. The idea of bringing more women to the stage at major events who speak about their applications and solutions in the area of 3D printing should also help improve the quality of the event.

There are women who do not dare to tackle engineering issues, the opportunity to be introduced to technical topics. Students also benefit from this. It gives you an insight into this industry. Events like this give the opportunity to enlarge the circle. The more successful women we make visible from the AM area, the more role models we have.

Women who are internationally successful are also invited to “Women in AM”. We have Laura Ely from Pittsburgh, for example, who is currently building a 3D printing campus and Dr. Özlem Weiss, which specializes in advising companies in medical technology. From these two and the other women who give lectures, you will see how wide the range and the chances are in this area.

Mission Additive: You mentioned earlier that you were a career changer in the 3D printing industry when you started. Since you started working in this industry, has there been a special challenge that you will remember forever?

Brickwede: I was visiting a factory to identify possible parts for 3D printing. The plant manager, who comes from a conservative industry, asked me several times when and whether my colleagues would come so that we could start. When I told him that there would be no male colleagues on my part, he asked me if I was absolutely sure. What was behind his statement: He didn't trust me that I could give a lecture on a technical topic. After I was able to convince him of my competence during the presentation, he was extremely friendly, showed me his work personally with great interest and it was suddenly important to him that I understand what his company is doing and what is going on. In retrospect, he was embarrassed that he didn't trust me (laughs).

Mission Additive: Is there any advice you would like to give to other women in the industry that would have helped you at the beginning of your career?

Brickwede: Don't let the boxhorn chase you! There are still prejudices that women cannot be explained such a topic because the topics are too complex for them. Of course that's total nonsense! Men didn't absorb the technology issues with breast milk either, but also learned them. Accordingly, everyone can learn that. As a woman, you should not be discouraged, but continue with determination and simply ignore such objections.

Mission Additive: You also have family. Are your children interested in 3D printing or does it not matter in your home?

Brickwede: I have two sons. The little one (7y.) Finds the topic interesting, but really big is the big one (11y.). He likes to sit in front of the 3D printer and think about what else you could do with it. For him it's almost nicer than watching TV (laughs). He is fascinated by how the parts are printed. He is totally enthusiastic and also has a small treasure chest with 3D-printed parts at home, for which I should always bring him something new when I am on the go.

Mission Additive: In the 'Digital Factory Podcast' with John Bruner from 2018, you spoke about a scenario of the Dutch ING Bank. According to this, half of all components should be printable worldwide in 2040. It has been almost two years since you testified. How do you feel about the whole thing today?

Brickwede: I particularly find the statement about how great the potential is and I still stand behind it. I believe that this topic is getting wider. 3D printing is currently gaining a foothold in the construction industry; whole buildings are now being created using 3D printers. This is just the beginning, but it will develop rapidly over the next few years. In some industries, additive manufacturing has almost replaced conventional manufacturing technologies. For example, when printing dental crowns or manufacturing hearing aids, 3D printing is now playing the main role. Few people know that, which is why it is hardly noticed, if at all. 3D printing will continue to spread. There are now too many enthusiastic, intelligent people who can and want to develop new use cases and technologies.