Final East TN “Venture Match” focuses on additive manufacturing

Venture MatchBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Five presentations and a tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) concluded the third and final program in Launch Tennessee’s “Venture Match” spring series in East Tennessee.

The evening event, held earlier this week, drew about 40 people from a variety of organizations to talk mostly about additive manufacturing. Previous programs in the 2014 three-session series have focused on medical devices and imaging and data analytics and visualization.

All of this week’s presentations had a common theme – technology development and deployment to strengthen the nation’s manufacturing sector.

“We need a commercial, off-the-shelf product that is affordable to revolutionize manufacturing,” said Suresh Babu, one of the newest “Governor’s Chairs.”

The former Professor at The Ohio State University has appointments in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Tennessee (UT) and ORNL’s Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate, including its Advanced Manufacturing Program.

Babu is an enthusiastic and effervescent individual who described his role as a “bridge” between the two organizations to help find breakthrough solutions to a nagging challenge.

“The cost of additive manufacturing is too high,” he said, but quickly cited two on-going research projects at the MDF that have significant potential.

Another speaker was Doug Speight, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cathedral Innovation Group, LLC, a company profiled on teknovation.biz in February. His firm is actually a portfolio of enterprises involved in capital equipment leasing, advanced manufacturing, and new product development.

“The leasing function is our primary one,” he told the attendees, adding that one of the options Cathedral provides its customers is fractional ownership of 3D printers that allows them to share capacity with others.

“It’s the NetJets model,” Speight explained.

In addition to leading Cathedral, he also serves as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the additive manufacturing track in the 2014 “GIGTANK” program that launches May 12 in Chattanooga.

Other speakers included:

  • Jesse Smith of ORNL’s Science and Technology Partnerships Directorate, who told the attendees that “you are going to see some of the largest 3D printers in the world” during their MDF tour.
  • Darrell Lea, Sales Manager of 3D Systems, who described three different technologies that his company – the world’s largest 3D manufacturer – incorporates in its machines.
  • Jeff McCay of Top Five, Inc., who described the businesses that comprise the private equity firm he heads and the ways that technology, including working with ORNL, has contributed to their success.

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