Morris Technologies, Inc. (Private)

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July 2, 2012 Issue

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As a Bellwether for the Future of Additive Metal Technology Morris Technologies, Inc. is Changing the Way Many Parts are Made

Greg Morris
Chief Executive Officer


Company Profile:
www.morristech.com
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Morris Technologies, Inc. (MTI) has been on the cutting edge of manufacturing technologies since 1994. In 2003 MTI brought the first direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to the United States and has since evolved into the global leader in additive metal manufacturing. MTIís heavy investment in research and development has enabled them to advance technologies by offering new materials and developing new hardware. MTI also specializes in end-to-end product development, from engineering to prototyping to low-volume manufacturing.


Industrial
Additive Manufacturing
(Private)


Morris Technologies, Inc.
11988 Tramway Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45241
Phone: 800-684-1611
www.morristech.com

 

Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published Ė July 2, 2012


CEOCFO: Mr. Morris, what is the focus at Morris Technologies Inc.?

Mr. Morris: Morris Technologies is involved in many areas, but predominantly we are an engineering and design firm working in the aerospace and medical fields, the federal business field, and the energy sector. We are probably best known for our additive metal technologies and capabilities. We have a number of machines that produce complex three-dimensional, smaller metal parts out of a variety of metals that are first produced in CAD. Then we slice that CAD file into very thin layers and grow the parts one layer at a time. Each layer laser welds or EBM welds to the layer below it to produce a fully functional three-dimensional part out of the machine.


CEOCFO: What about additive metals in general, where and how are they used, and what is an example of a project that is representative of your work?

Mr. Morris: Additive metals is really a subsection of additive manufacturing, which refers to technologies that can produce parts by building layers up in one form or another, using either plastic materials or metal materials to produce three-dimensional complex parts. That would be different than subtractive manufacturing or, as people better understand it, CNC machining, or machining of any sort where you are actually taking away material to create the three-dimensional part. Our technology adds layers very selectively, so for each layer, we are producing only the geometry of that layer that adheres to the layer below it to produce a 3-D part. Examples of where these kinds of parts are used could be in the aerospace world, a variety of gas turbine engine components. Think of a high-pressure turbine blade that is a very complex part with complex internal geometry. Normally, a part like that would be investment cast, so you would have to make tooling to produce a ceramic core, tooling to produce the wax pattern, put a ceramic shell around that, then cast the metal in, and then remove the ceramic core. In our process, we can take the 3-D CAD file of that same part and produce it layer by layer directly in the machine without having to create tooling and without having to go through that whole ceramic core, ceramic investing process. In the medical field, customized implants would be a good example of the technology being leveraged to produce very complex geometry customized to a particular patientís anatomy. One could see CT scan of a hip portion of somebodyís good leg, mirror it in CAD, and then produce the mirror image using additive metals, incorporating some very complex geometry in the part, like in-bone growth structure. Another application would be dental where each patient has an individual coping. In our technology, we can produce three to four hundred of those copings at one time in one build. In that case, it becomes mass customization where we have three or four hundred distinct and different geometries of a similar nature that we can produce very cost effectively compared to the traditional manufacturing methods that have been employed in the past.


CEOCFO: How do you interact with your clients and their needs?

Mr. Morris: Sometimes we have customers who know exactly what they want. They have the 3-D CAD file, and they send that to us and ask us to provide a quotation on using our additive metal technology to produce the component. Other times, we are being tasked by our customers to provide the best solution, and they are not as knowledgeable about the additive technology. They send us a file or a print and ask us to quote what the best methodology from a cost, lead time, and quality perspective would be. We then will decide which is the best path, whether it is additive metal or traditional machining or some other methodology.


CEOCFO: You mentioned being able to do this more quickly than traditional methods, what are the advantages?

Mr. Morris: For additive manufacturing, it will depend on the circumstances whether it is faster, less expensive, or what have you. Clearly, there are many examples where speed is going to be the winning factor with regard to the additive. It could be cost is less in additive than it is in traditional methodologies. I think the real power and real factor for additive manufacturing is the ability to create geometries that you otherwise could not create any other way, or at least you could not create any other way effectively. For example, on an aircraft engine component we could create and apply a complex lattice structure to the component and grow that lattice structure using additive metals. Assuming the lattice structure could not be cast or machined and there was no other methodology to do that, additive manufacturing may be a very important technology because it could reduce the weight. It would directly translate into less cost for the airline and less fuel that they have to consume over the life of that particular engine or plane. Or, it could produce some kind of a performance enhancement, so you have a complex geometry with snaking passages that allow for a more efficient component than traditional manufacturing can produce. Typically, when you marry up complexity of design and you can leverage that complexity of design to reduce weight, cost, or improve the quality, that is where additive manufacturing becomes very important.


CEOCFO: Do the industries and potential customers understand additive manufacturing or is it still fairly new; what is the competitive landscape?

Mr. Morris: It is becoming better known. The awareness is increasing more, and there is more media attention on additive manufacturing. But, by and large, there is a large portion of the OEM population that really does not fully understand what additive manufacturing can do, so I would say it is fairly new. Relative to what the competitive landscape looks like, currently there are only a handful of providers of the technology--either the people making the machines or the people offering services off the machines. It is still a relatively young industry, although we believe that the disruptive nature of this technology--from the standpoint of being able to provide those cost, intellectual property, or speed benefits--is going to accelerate very quickly. We anticipate that we will see exponential growth in the additive manufacturing world, probably in the next five to ten years where the competitive landscape will increase to the degree that there will be many other companies standing up who will offer services that will have their niche in their individual areas. There will be more choices for equipment providers as well.


CEOCFO: With the variety of areas that you work in and what seems to be endless possibilities; how do you decide where to focus in particular communities and industries?

Mr. Morris: Typically, we focus on industries where the components have a degree of complexity and the components are smaller. So, we are not creating parts the size of a car; we are creating parts the size of the individual engine components of the car. Typically, these are industries where there is high value perceived, so on the aerospace industry, many of the components in aerospace are lower volume, but high complexity. That is where this technology fits well. The same can be said for medical. There are many medical instrumentation implants of devices that have high degree of complexity or demands on them. This technology fits very well for that. There are going to be those markets and industries where the differentiator will be what the technology can provide in terms of complexity or differentiation of the product from an appearance standpoint. Therefore, where plastic or metals can quickly create something that is non-traditional on many fronts could be a competitive advantage for many people.


CEOCFO: You recently added an electron beam melting machine, what is that add, and is that typical of the incremental services, or equipment, modeling that you can add?

Mr. Morris: Electron beam is a technology different from our laser-based systems. It is an actual electron beam that is the power source. The beam is directed by magnetic fields to the surface of the powder and an X and Y plane, thus melting the powder where it is directed on the surface. Electron beam differs in that it is a much higher power source. It operates in a vacuum versus an atmosphere, which allows for certain alloys and certain properties to be achieved versus the laser-based systems. That being said, the laser-based systems have advantages over the electron beam systems as well. As far as the incremental growth, we are the first in North America that I am aware of as a private company to have both the laser-based and the electron beam technologies. However, it is representative of the incremental growth, or potentially the scale up that we will see in companies like ours as more awareness, more applications, and more use of the additive technologies begin to take hold.


CEOCFO: With technology changing constantly, how do you make a final decision on what is going to work or what is not?

Mr. Morris: That is a challenge for most any capital-intensive industry, and we are no different. We are a capital-intensive industry, and it is certainly challenging for us to try to ascertain what are the technologies we should be investing in today, especially in an industry or a technology that is rapidly changing and improving, which these systems are. We make those decisions based upon what we perceive our customer requirements and needs are. We try to do a fairly intensive amount of research with our customers to determine if we bring in XYZ technology, whether it will have a value proposition for them that is something they are not getting today. We also look at how the technologies complement our other capabilities within our own company. For instance, we do quite a bit of C&C machining, so we look very carefully to see the impact of some of these newer technologies and how they fit with our machining capabilities so that the combined value proposition is higher than just each of them standing alone.


CEOCFO: In what degree does the development rely on the engineer as opposed to the machine?

Mr. Morris: The heart and soul of any design is ultimately going to be the designer or the engineer appropriately designing to the process. The machine is a tool just as any machining center is a tool. The trick is to be able to marry up the skill and the talent of the engineer and the designer to the knowledge of how best to design to the process, thus creating product that is impossible to make any other way but ultimately is a higher value proposition than traditional manufacturing methodologies.


CEOCFO: How is business these days?

Mr. Morris: The first part of the year seemed a little soft, but it seems like things have started to pick up. I think as more clarity develops on the broader economy, and the certain industries that we happen to be involved in have projects that are moving along, we look at the second half of 2012 as being steady. Depending upon various geopolitical events, we hope that 2013 and on will be quite strong.


CEOCFO: Is the company funded for growth, should things ramp up very quickly, and do you have the facilities and the capabilities to handle all comers?

Mr. Morris: I would say we always have and continue to focus on growth. We reinvest back into our company significantly. Most importantly, we have developed strategic relationships with our suppliers as well as our customers, and we have purposefully built our company for rapid scale-up. Thus, we feel very well prepared for an explosion of activity. We are banking on that to happen.


CEOCFO: What is your strategy for the next year to eighteen months to get that to happen?

Mr. Morris: Our strategy is to continue to develop strong customer relationships, focus on working with our customers to identify the clear wins that additive can have on their existing products, and develop the future products with them, helping to educate our customers into the process and educating ourselves to what our customer needs are going forward.


CEOCFO: Why should investors and potential customers pay attention to Morris Technologies today?

Mr. Morris: Morris Technology currently is the global leader in additive metals. Additive metals is a disruptive technology. It is disruptive not only for the aerospace and medical industries, but it will play a significant role in many industries. It is a technology that all major OEMs in the aerospace and medical fields are evaluating and aware of and even investing in, which validates this young technology as being something relatively significant. We are a bellwether for the future of additive metal technology, and I believe that this technology will change the way many parts are made. We are currently in a hundreds of million-dollar industry, and I believe in the next five to ten years we are going to see this blossom into a multibillion-dollar industry. We hope to be at the forefront of that.


CEOCFO: In closing, would you tell us about your R&D efforts?

Mr. Morris: We reinvest significantly into R&D efforts to develop new alloys and advance the technology. We do that in conjunction with our customers as well as independently. We believe very strongly in that commitment and investment into the technology, and building the future not just for ourselves but for the industry as a whole.

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We are a bellwether for the future of additive metal technology, and I believe that this technology will change the way many parts are made. - Greg Morris

 

 

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