According to Dr Filomeno Martina, CEO and co-founder of WAAM3D, 2022 has been the year the company has elevated itself to become a game-changer in the aerospace sector.
On the morning of the 19th of December 2019, in a meeting room in our old lab at Cranfield University, I had no idea the person visiting me and sitting across my desk would go on to become WAAM3D’s biggest customer. On the same morning, in the same room, I was impatiently waiting for a text coming all the way from Singapore, a country so far away I’d never think to visit.
My visitor and I discussed how we could work together, brainstorming solutions to common technical issues, whilst also sharing nuggets of founders’ pains and joys. The text finally came through: Accuron’s board had given the green light to their investment, WAAM3D’s A-round.
At that point, we were nothing more than an embryo, a collection of lots of dreams flying high like weird clouds above our noisy, vibrant shed full of robots and sparks next to Cranfield’s airstrip. WAAM3D was the bright light produced during experiments on new, exotic materials; it was the buzzing sound of the high-frequency electric arcs that would ignite all over the place; it was the shaky vibration of the machine-hammer-peening going off on the biggest titanium structures ever printed; it was the noisy, multicultural tea-breaks between long, swearword-rich failed attempts; it was the flutter of butterflies in my stomach whilst conceptualising an aerospace manufacturing revolution - which I still get looking back over the last fifteen years of blood, sweat and tears.
On that morning, WAAM3D began to crawl, leaving ‘Mother’ Cranfield, to start its own journey. With fresh money in our bank account, we could look for independent premises, hire people, acquire kit and accelerate our industrialisation efforts.
We enjoyed the view from the top of the mountain for a couple of months. Little did we know that the whole world was going to come to a halt. Suddenly kids couldn’t go to school, parents couldn’t go to work, and the only way to get out was to walk the dog 10 times a day. We had to recruit without being able to meet anyone in person and shape the culture of an infant organisation without being able to be in the same room – for months and months. Our new headquarters were chosen through on-line viewings and we could only meet prospective customers and suppliers through video conferencing platforms. Our energy and excitement were confined to our cupboard-home-offices.
However, not being able to travel freed up an incredible amount of time for all of us. Heads-down, we worked harder than ever. We could focus entirely on completing the industrialisation of our products and services, whilst building the foundations of our company, confident that we’d come out even stronger, more determined and more adept.
Occasionally, I look back to 2009, the year I left Italy to complete my studies here in the UK. I thought I’d be back home within the year. The global financial crisis, combined with both the taste of a new country and the much-needed ‘science breath of fresh air’, made me hang around. The need for plasma deposition soon became a life choice. I promised myself I wouldn’t leave until I could fly on an aircraft held together by bits printed on our RoboWAAM, maybe even taking off from Cranfield, a university so rich in aerospace heritage. I wanted to elevate WAAM from a university lab opportunity to a game-changer in the aerospace manufacturing world, with its capabilities to reduce waste, compress lead-times, improve environmental performance and reduce costs
2022 has been an incredible year for WAAM3D and I feel incredibly blessed, humbled and privileged to be part of a family which, only a few years on, has more than 35 staff in two countries, many international awards, a multi-million-pound revenue, customers all over the world, and the best large-scale metal 3D printers you can conceive.
It was our dream and vision, now it’s everyone’s ingenuity and capability. We started with 100mm-long component tests in a lab, now we’re printing 40m-tall rockets. The future potential of WAAM in aerospace manufacturing is mind-blowing. Whatever it is that you do, whatever makes you get up in the morning, know your worth, stay true to yourself, go with the flow, and never, just never, lose the spark.