September 29, 2012

Time with John Holdren

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Event — Terry Wohlers @ 18:48

I had the privilege of spending a couple hours with John Holdren yesterday. Dr. Holdren is the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). In this role, he serves as President Obama’s assistant and top advisor on science and technology in the U.S.

I found Dr. Holdren to be incredibly bright, personable, and a good listener. He understands the importance of innovation and manufacturing in the U.S. We are lucky to have people like him, Tom Kalil, Tom Kurfess, and Gene Sperling at OSTP. Kalil is the Deputy Director of Policy and also serves as the “head of innovation,” according to Holdren. Kurfess is on a one-year assignment at the White House as Assistant Director for Advanced Manufacturing. I’ve worked with both and they are first class. Sperling is the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, a cabinet level position. I was lucky enough to meet him at the official announcement of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII). The ribbon cutting ceremony for NAMII in Youngstown, Ohio was three days ago, with about 200 people present.

Yesterday’s meeting with Dr. Holdren was part of a small and informal roundtable organized by and held at the Center for Renewable Energy and Economic Development (CREED) in Golden, Colorado. CREED is a part of the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The event was chaired by Stephen Miller, president and CEO of CREED. He did an outstanding job with the meeting.

When introducing myself, I briefly discussed additive manufacturing and 3D printing. I mentioned a couple benefits of the technology, including the savings of material for metal parts, compared to machining them, which can result in 80-90% of the material becoming scrap in the form of chips. I also mentioned the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and NAMII. OSTP is closely involved with this new activity.

An important part of yesterday’s agenda was 15-20 minutes of comments from Dr. Holdren. He discussed a number of issues for the U.S., including the vital importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. He underscored President Obama’s belief that it is the single most important activity for the future.

I was thrilled when he spoke of the importance of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. And, he visibly lit up when he began to discuss it. He explained that the technology is a win, win, win for our country and mentioned how impressed he was by some aerospace parts he saw recently that were 3D printed in titanium. He did not know that two titanium parts, including a hip implant, were sitting an arm’s length from him and in front of me. I later showed him the parts and gave one to him, as well as three other parts. He expressed interest in the hip implant, so I promised to send one to him.

After meeting with people like Holdren, I am encouraged by the direction of our nation in science and technology. He and his team understand the importance of engineering and manufacturing. Holdren and others at the roundtable enjoyed overviews of two Colorado companies and how they expect to impact the future use of energy. One is Fabriq, which provides wireless, computer-based dimming of lights in buildings of all types. The other is EcoVapor Recovery Systems, which provides vapor recovery technology for oil and gas wells. Companies, such as these, coupled with good people in Washington, give me hope and optimism for the future of our great nation.