Danny Jackson Levy is a cross-functional design engineer, providing turnkey solutions using additive manufacturing hardware and design methodologies. He has special interests direct digital manufacturing technologies, medical and dental applications, Addictive Manufacturing, market analysis, open-source 3D Printing for R&D, and 3D/STEM education and curricula development. He works for Fisher Unitech as their 3D printing expert. He also helps run the mHUB lab in Chicago. So without further ado, tune into our interview.
Ese: Tell me about your educational background?
I moved to Chicago in 2008 and went to Columbia College for Product Design. There where not a lot of people with an art school background in this industry. Different workflows are important. I was able to learn this through my education. This skillset has transferred very well to my career. I also spent a lot of time in the shop at Columbia building projects so that helped me as well. I have always been involved within the maker world.
What got you interested in 3D Printing?
Twitter and a startup really helped me a lot. I was active on twitter and found out about the 3D Printer Experience in Chicago. I then set up shop and got to work. A friend of mine dropped out and became a founder at a startup I worked for as well. Most of what I learned was from hands on experience. It was a lot of work and long nights.
What has changed over time in Chicago since you have been involved with the scene?
A handful of things have changed. The exposure of the field has changed a lot. Way more people are familiar with different tech. People have more access. Positive impacts are made with what is going on in the field. My perception of the field has changed as well. There is a long standing history of manufacturing in Chicago. Too many people feel that it is new, but it really is not new technology. It is important to note people are hyper focused on localized manufacturing. There is a huge mindset that people want to continue new processes to leverage their businesses for the future.
You have had a lot of experience with various products as well as companies trying to leverage 3D Printing. What would you believe are essential components of a product design process?
A willingness for flexibility is really important. People get too focused on a close up view of their product. Perspective is helpful. You have to see beyond what is in front of you. An understanding of tech is crucial as well. Being in mHub, I am able to interface with various levels of people in terms of product development. Engineers may become very focused and may not have an ability to learn even more than their specific sub tasks. Having access is important. Developing a product intently is important. Go try and break things.
What are some things that you feel are important for the future of additive manufacturing? What are interesting trends in Chicago?
Changing from outsourcing to insourcing is critical. People know the tech is out there. Coworking at mHub is also a big thing. People want access to this info and machines. Availability is so critical. Shared labs are extremely important. STEM programs and professional development is big now as well. Skill development is big in terms of trends.
I think there are two forms of people within the additive manufacturing field – the creatives and the technical people. Should there be better cross disciplinary thinking encouraged?
Yes. I am a creative thinker. I am the type to hang out with friends and brainstorm endless ideas. I also am interested in the entrepreneurial world. It does not fit into the prototypical engineering role within additive manufacturing. A lot of OEMs hire automotive engineers and engineers straight out of college. It is critical to know mechanical properties. People making waves in this field are finding new ways to print things. It is important to try a different wave of thinking sometimes. It is important to make what you do fun as well. I would love to see people enjoying a hybridization of mindsets. The field would grow more with that.