"I believe in the near future, we'll be able to print our buildings and houses.” — Neri Oxman, MIT professor
February 9, 2021
A CHAT WITH AN INNOVATOR
Rick Neff, Rick Neff LLC
There's a big focus on Ohio for manufacturing. In fact, in 2012, Youngstown, OH, was chosen to be the flagship institute (America Makes) for Manufacturing USA, a national accelerator for technology research and innovation in additive manufacturing and 3D printing.
As Rick Neff, of Rick Neff, LLC, says, “In Ohio, we know how to make things.”
Neff’s two-year-old Cincinnati company contracts with manufacturers who are implementing additive technologies. We had the opportunity to speak with Neff about additive manufacturing and what his company does.
Let’s start with some basics. What is additive manufacturing?
Neff: Traditionally, machinists take a block of material and machine away part of the material to get the part you want. We create a 3D representation of that part using CAD software. Once we have that software representation, we place it into really small, thin layers. We then build those layers one at a time until we’ve built the part from the bottom to the top.
What are the advantages of additive manufacturing?
Neff: It enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems. Typical manufacturing practices like injection molding require expensive tooling that has a long lead time. Additive manufacturing has a shortened lead time. The tech also allows you to make many prototypes to optimize the design, and there is a savings in cost and time. And sometimes there’s just no other way to make a particular part design other than additive manufacturing.
What made you start a company in this field?
Neff: There's a real lack of qualified people that really understand the industry, people who “get it.” I decided to start my own company doing consulting work for those people. I spend half my time learning new tech around additive manufacturing and the other half sharing what I know.
Who are your clients?
Neff: FireHawk Aerospace is one of our clients. They make hybrid rocket engines. They’re using 3D so the engines can be made as quickly and inexpensively as possible while leaving less room for error. Catalysis is another—it’s in the vacuum forming and composites manufacturing space. OpenAdditive uses Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing systems.
"In Ohio, we know how to make things."
— Rick Neff
What is your background?
Neff: I grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended Lehigh University. I lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and then moved to Cincinnati about 28 years ago because my wife at the time was transferred here for her job at Procter & Gamble.
How does Cincy stack up to those other cities?
Neff: Cincinnati has everything to offer that any of the large cities do. It's got great music. It's got great culture. It's got a fabulous restaurant scene—if you're a foodie, it's a great place to live right now.
And it doesn't have the problems of the big city. It doesn't have a high cost of living and it’s easy to get around. You're not stuck in traffic all the time. The people are friendly. It’s a good place to grow a company as well.
What do you see for the future of additive manufacturing?
Neff: Additive manufacturing has been growing at a double-digit pace for the last 10 years or so and I see it growing at a double-digit pace for the next 10 years. The technology is always changing.
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With Refinery Ventures
Explore innovation with the Fast Frontiers podcast
If you enjoy discovering innovation in surprising places and hearing stories from entrepreneurial leaders, Fast Frontiers is your new must-listen to podcast. Host Tim Schigel, Managing Partner of Refinery Ventures, brings you interviews form leading funders, ecosystem builders, corporate innovators, and startup founders. Your next big idea is one episode away!
Wendy Lea, CEO of Energize Colorado — S2: E1
What is your potential? How do you create an independent entrepreneurial path? Leading digital innovations strategist and ecosystem development guru, Wendy Lea, shares her story and strategies.
Victor Gutwein, Managing Partner of M25 — S2: E2
There is more innovation happening in the Midwest than you think. Get insight on the region and access to capital from M25 founder and partner Victor Gutwein. CBInsights recently identified M25 as the most active investor in Illinois, Michigan, AND NEBRASKA.
Steve Walchek, Chief Innovation Officer of FIS — S2: E3
From founder to product manager, to business development and everything in between, FIS Chief Innovation Officer Steve Walchek has done it all. Gain an edge from Steve's insight on different destinations along an innovator's journey.
You can find the Fast Frontiers podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or their website.
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Physna raises $20 million
Cincinnati 3D modeling pioneer Physna has just closed on $20 million in Series B funding, led by Sequoia Capital and Midwest-centric VC firm Drive Capital.
Therapeutics at the push of a button
Enable Injections is developing a medical device called the enFuse, an innovative drug delivery system. The device will allow patients to transfer a therapeutic from a vial and administer it to themselves through the skin at the push of a button.
A fish called Wanda
OK, we’re not sure about the name, but UC researchers are using zebrafish to study a gene mutation that causes scoliosis. Zebrafish and humans share 70% of the same genes. The embryonic tissue of zebrafish is transparent, making visualization easier. The research involves separating genes on a particular chromosome.
Award to research UAVs
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Multi-Agent Systems Technology Research (UAV MASTER) Lab at the University of Cincinnati, partnering with software company VISIMO, won an Air Force “Agility Prime” Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award to research autonomous Orbs and unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAV).
SoCap taking applications for Spring cohort
SoCap Accelerate, created in partnership with Northern Kentucky University and St. Elizabeth’s Healthcare to foster health innovation companies, is accepting applications for its Spring cohort.
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Midwest Venture Showcase — April 27-28, 2021
With a blend of on-demand and live sessions, the virtual 2021 program is designed to provide you with the latest industry updates and flexibility to view content and company pitches according to your schedule. Co-produced by InvestMidwest and the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium. Register HERE.
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AROUND THE REGION
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