Welcome to our series ‘Shop Talk’, where Dan Slaski interviews people in the thick of product development business, who make the magic happen and turn their ideas into reality. Have an interview suggestion? Send it in.
Xometry is an online mega manufacturing marketplace ready to take whatever 3D models you can throw at them. Xometry isn’t a contract manufacturer, it’s all the contract manufacturers. Greg Paulson is their Director of Application Engineering and has even more excitement than I do for manufacturing, and that’s saying a lot. He is a fountain of knowledge, an industry champion, and a nerd’s nerd.
Hi, I’m Greg Paulsen and I’m the Director of Application Engineering at Xometry. For over a decade I have worked in the field of advanced manufacturing, with a strong lean in industrial additive manufacturing. I help engineers make better decisions on what process to choose and why depending on their project needs. Need someone to take your CAD for a spin and talk shop? I’m your guy.
A Xometry I work both with customers and our internal team to better their understanding of everything that we offer. A large part of my current duties is building better content to help engineers navigate our offerings. I make fun engineering challenge videos where I heat, smash, and torque 3D printed materials to show how they compare. I built our free manufacturing design guides and even wrote a 3D printing guide that covers a lot of topics.
What is Xometry and what makes it different from the traditional machine shop or service bureau model?
You can go to Xometry.com for everything you need from machine shops, service bureaus, tool & die shops, and more. We have taken advanced machine learning and AI to allow most projects to instantly quote with the upload of a 3D model. Our site allows you to specify and customize your quote, whether it’s 3D printed or traditionally manufactured, and order when you need it. Not only do we provide a consolidated and fast quoting experience, but we also empower over 5,000 manufacturers by connecting them with the projects that best fit their sweet spot. This solves so many problems that are currently faced with procurement like finding a high-value supplier, avoiding capacity constraints, and losing time waiting for quotes. We truly are a one-stop-shop for manufacturing on demand.
What is Xometry headquarters like and what is it like working at Xometry?
We were originally founded in Gaithersburg, MD, and in one location had manufacturing, quality assurance, project engineering, software development, and everything else! Now that we are over 300 employees we have even more locations around Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Los Angeles–and did I mention we have Xometry Europe?
Everyone I work with is so talented and I love being a sponge to absorb and learn from our leadership and team. Our whole company is focused on customer service and making great outcomes on all projects. This is a giant multidisciplinary effort and we have experts in just about every field and industry. It’s a lot of work, and at the end of the day we are making something tangible and real–it’s a great reward.
You are located outside Washington DC in Maryland. I am outside DC in Virginia. The DC area is not a heavy manufacturing area. Why and how did you end up here?
Dude, you’re asking me? I was working as an additive manufacturing expert in the DC area and thought it was an advanced manufacturing ghost town… then I found out about Xometry. That was over six years ago. Our CEO and founder, Randy Altschuler, was able to bring in the manufacturing experts and heavyweights needed and the rest is history. The power of our distributed manufacturing network is that we do not need to be in a heavy manufacturing area and still rethink and show how manufacturing can be done with a global marketplace.
Why Xometry and not Xalculus or Xalgebra?
The URLs were taken. Ha! Just kidding.
You offer both additive and subtractive services. These processes can have fundamentally different design implications. How would you recommend a novice translate design requirements into a process that is the best fit?
Each process has its own strengths and trade-offs. We have design guides, our blog, and capabilities pages to get you started. That being said–CAD can speak to us. If you upload your 3D CAD model and contact your account rep, they can get you a quick consult with one of our application engineers to help determine what you need.
Often, one design may use several processes during its lifecycle. I may use selective laser sintering 3D printing for rapid design iterations, then maybe stereolithography to print a final design check before I move to CNC or injection molding services. A good question I ask is what do the next 6 weeks look like for this project? 6 months? 6 years? Very often those answers will dictate the path of the project.
All that said, there is one process that people tend to not accidentally design for or confuse: sheet metal. You see a sheet metal part, it’s a sheet metal part.
I heard in the Being an Engineer podcast, that you went to James Madison University. I went to nearby Virginia Tech. If I wanted to make an orange and maroon sign to celebrate Virginia’s best university what process(es) would you recommend?
My good friend at VT designed a seaplane as part of his aerospace engineering capstone (he’s now a rocket scientist). Since I had access to a full color 3D printer (Zcorp 450) at the additive lab I made him a VT-themed print with orange and maroon…. I also snuck a Duke Dog in the cockpit! I don’t think I have the picture of the VT-version, but I did print a JMU version with his design. GO DUKES!
Caption: A 3D print from Greg’s days in the product realization lab at JMU circa 2008.
Now, color 3D printing is becoming more accessible with better mechanical properties. The polymer jetting processes through Stratasys have really rich colors and detail, but I’m most excited about HP MJF color advancements since they are built with thermoplastics.
Have you thought about joining forces with McMaster-Carr to form an unstoppable custom / COTS combo?
I guess it’s time for an obligatory plug for xometry.com/supplies! As a huge fan of McMaster and their interface, I would love that.
There is a lot of talk about industry 4.0 being a new industrial revolution based on automation, machine learning, and interconnectivity. Where are we in it? Where do you see it going and what is Xometry’s role?
I truly believe that Xometry’s manufacturing marketplace combined with our machine learning for both pricing and pairing projects with the right manufacturers is laying the foundation for industry 4.0. We are in it right now. I think Xometry will become one of the transactional defaults for manufacturing, and be part of a larger ecosystem connecting design, digital twin and simulation, pricing, procurement, execution, AND quality assurance.
You have a $50 referral program. Shall we say that this article counts as 100 referrals for me?
Dan! You should log in and go to your get.xometry.com/earn-credits page and put in your unique URL here: Will write for custom parts / Dan has no shame. For everyone who clicks on it and registers, they’ll get $50 of Xometry credits and you will get $50 for every new registrant they place. I always say it’s a good way to pay for your prototyping through referrals. Also, the obligatory “some restrictions apply.”
The book “Good to Great” talks about the “Hedgehog Concept”. The Hedgehog concept means focusing on one area of core excellence and avoiding opportunities that distract from that core focus. “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” What would you say is Xometry’s Hedgehog concept?
Good to Great by Jim Collins is one of my favorites and I have read it through a few times. It’s right beside The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt as a need-to-read in our space. Xometry’s hedgehog concept is using technology to empower both buyers and suppliers at the same time. There are other business models out there that only grow for themselves, and compete or take work from other manufacturers. One of the things I love about Xometry is that at our core we are empowering both the engineers/purchasers and manufacturers. We are giving work to our manufacturing partners so as we grow so does the entire manufacturing ecosystem.
The nature of your platform allows small shops to work for large organizations they may not have been able to otherwise. I can see this working in reverse as well. Where startups and educational institutions that have no manufacturing relationships or experience can dip their toes in and gets parts made. This opens the door to projects and products that wouldn’t have been accessible or feasible before. Are you seeing this happen and can you share any examples?
Absolutely, we have significantly lowered the barrier to entry for custom manufacturing–essentially requiring only a CAD file to get started. We serve everyone from Fortune 100 companies to independent inventors, hobbyists, and everything in between. Although the vast majority of our work is confidential, we have been fortunate enough to have some clients share their stories with us via case studies. From air handlers for the international space station to building commercial chocolate 3D printers we have the ability to help.
I like to visit local shops when I can. It helps me stay in touch grounded and in touch with reality. In the Toyota way, they call this Genchi Genbutsu or “go and see”. I personally believe the distributed and local approaches have a time and place and can work together. How do you see these two approaches blending?
I wish I could go to a new shop every single week and be a sponge to absorb the talent of skilled operators. Going to shops is one of my favorite things about this job. Over the last year, I have seen an amazing community emerge from our manufacturing partners and Xometry’s internal partner team. We are expanding our transparency with our suppliers through our Digital RFQ Marketplace to give customers direct access to Xometry partners–there is still a lot to be done and the vision we have is very exciting!
You have a lot of educational resources on the Xometry webpage. How do you stay educated on design and manufacturing processes? Do you have any resources you recommend?
We really want to have a robust resources page at Xometry because of all the different processes and technologies we have to offer. Nobody knows over a dozen manufacturing technologies end-to-end, let alone all the nuances and materials each one offers. Our manufacturing capabilities pages are great hubs to a lot of the resources we have at Xometry like our design guides.
When I am working on building new content I usually reach out to our internal experts and ask the “what do you wish your customers knew more about?” I also check our customer feedback and questions coming in through our FAQ search and live chat. When I see a gap, I see an opportunity to build some educational content. Also, if you’re interested in edu-tainment I have made a series on Xometry’s YouTube page with engineering challenges that are fun ways of learning how different 3D printing processes and materials compare. The latest one I did was “Will it Beat the Heat” where I put different prints through the same environment as a steam autoclave.
AT 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020 you gave out CADBEAST shirts (I got one). What is a CADBEAST? How many arms does it have? What are its weaknesses and how do you defeat one?
A CADBEAST is the designer or engineer using their software to make parts. There is a real strong sense of community in CAD designers, whether you’re running SolidWorks or another platform and we love them all! How do you defeat a CADBEAST? See the image below:
The good, fast, cheap paradigm says you only get to pick any two. How do you view this traditional way of thinking?
Overall it definitely is a true statement, although I usually say “time, scope, cost.” Where Xometry comes in though is putting transparency on the price of a part by showing machine-learned, market-fair pricing for a part given its process, material, features, and quantities. We also give a choice of when you need the part for a lot of our services. By using a marketplace model, we can provide competitive pricing regardless of the design need… and without the wait.
With instant quoting and CAD package add-ins are you concerned that you are making things too easy for us? If you solve all our problems can you recommend some new topics we can complain about?
Haha! No way! We are making things less tedious and complicated for custom procurement and sourcing (as well as finding customers on the partner end). I want you to focus on the hard things like new designs and great products. Let’s make humanity a little better by putting our brains to work. We are just making sure you’re not wasting time on the sourcing or supply chain shuffle!
Ordering parts can cause me to really work up an appetite. Have you considered adding pizza manufacturers to your partner network?
Oh yeah, just go to our website and put /pizza at the end of the URL. Kidding…. or am I?
Do you see adding electrical manufacturing services like PCBs and wire harnesses in the future? What about contract assembly?
As we know, the marketplace for manufacturing goes well beyond discrete manufacturing parts. I think Xometry is ripe for connecting all sorts of needs with vetted suppliers.
How can people learn more about Xometry and stay up to date on your offerings?
Our homepage is a great place to get started at xometry.com and you should sign up for our blog to receive updates on our services and new content. If you have 3D CAD, upload your file for an instant quote. We have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages.