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Frustum Q&A: Jeff Haas, Solution Architect, SAIC

We recently sat down with Jeff Haas, a solution architect at SAIC, a premier technology integrator in the technical, engineering, intelligence, and enterprise information technology markets, Jeff is currently at the forefront of cutting edge technology - as SAIC uses topology optimization and additive manufacturing frequently. He comes across a lot of new tech but not everything he sees always sticks with him. A clear exception to that case was when he was first introduced to Frustum and the cloud-based topology optimization solution, Generate. In Jeff’s eyes, Generate represents a complete paradigm shift in how engineers will approach design and it will transform the future of additive manufacturing.

With Generate now available to the public at large, anyone can now experience the potential that Jeff saw. We spoke with Jeff to discuss his impressions of Generate, what he thinks about the future of additive manufacturing. See a condensed version of our conversation below: 

How did SAIC begin to get into the additive manufacturing space?

Jeff: A couple years ago a few engineers and I pitched the importance of additive manufacturing to SAIC positing that we wouldn’t be ready for the future if we didn’t start significantly investing in additive manufacturing within the next 10 years. At the time we were also getting more invested in topology optimization but ran into the issue that current solutions for TopOp were pretty kludgy. So, SAIC decided to make a significant push into additive manufacturing. Along with a few other engineers I started to build out an additive manufacturing lab.

How did you hear about Frustum and Generate? What were your first impressions?

Jeff: Part of the AM labs efforts was to identify solutions out there. Frustum and their Generate product came up and was earmarked for more research. That was expedited significantly when we ended up seeing Jesse Blankenship, Frustum’s CEO give a talk at the “2016 AM3D conference in Charlotte NC.” We were blown away and knew we needed to try out the product immediately.

On top of that we were organizing our own 3D printing, quadcopter competition internally at SAIC and knew a tool like Generate would be a great fit. As part of the competition we had a day of learning where industry experts came and provided instruction and tutorials on additive manufacturing. So, we invited Jesse to give a talk introducing Frustum and showing off Generate. It went very well. Everyone was really excited about it.

What stood out immediately from Jesse’s talk?

Jeff: Two elements that immediately caught my attention were the speed / intuitiveness of the user interface and the the superiority of the geometry it created. It was amazing to see in action. We could tell immediately that this would make additive manufacturing and topology optimization much more accessible and as an engineer who has designed many parts over the years, you can recognize good design when you see it.

What are the major barriers for topology optimization and additive manufacturing right now? What do you think is the main benefit that Generate brings to the table?

Jeff: As I mentioned before, topology optimization is pretty onerous at the moment, which of course stands in the way of good AM. Right now, we are using old tools and concepts to do something very new. I like to say we are using a screwdriver as a chisel. There’s bad linkage between the general shape that optimization software will come up with and the actual design. Then converting from optimized geometry to an actual, usable part is extremely time consuming.

Generate solves this beautifully. Its built-in kernel does all the work that someone would normally have to do in CAD to take optimized geometry and make it usable automatically. Not only that but it gets you a solution close to 99% right a lot of the time. The time savings are also phenomenal. Saying it saves engineers or designers up to 90% of their time when coming up with geometry might be an understatement.

Is it transformative?

Transformative may not be a strong enough word. They are blowing up the approach to design. To reiterate, before it was like we were using a screwdriver as a chisel and Generate is providing the right tool for the job. The original CAD programs were built with something so different in mind and serve a totally different purpose than what they are being used for. Eventually these players will incorporate something like Frustum’s tech into their software but they don’t seem all that close and I have yet to see anyone else come close to matching what Generate does.


Jesse Blankenship

Jesse Blankenship

A pioneer of generative design, Jesse founded Frustum, Inc. in 2014 to usher in a new paradigm of CAD. Recognized for his expertise, Jesse served as a Columbia University (MSAAD-2010) Researcher & Professor, teaching generative design and programming to hundreds of graduate students. Jesse also worked as a Senior Optimization Engineer at Autodesk Research for Additive Manufacturing and Aerospace applications. His work included leading the Optimization of the Airbus 2050 concept plane. As CEO of Frustum, Inc., Jesse has enjoyed growing a profitable and innovative company by establishing strong relationships, commercial agreements and OEM partnerships.