This article originates from Women In 3D Printing and is part of our effort to support the use of 3D printing technology by women. The article is re-published with permission.
Lisa is the CEO of Scansite, a provider of 3D scanning, 3D inspection, and reverse engineering services, located in the Bay Area. She also is one of our panelist during tomorrow’s #3DTalk Panel – Modeling and Scanning. She is sharing here some of her 26+ years of experience in the 3D industry!
Nora Toure: Lisa, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into the 3D world in the first place?
Lisa Federici: In 1990, I was working for a custom furniture company that made quite a few organic designs using traditional sculpting methods and materials. We were looking for improved methodology to get the designs into CAD to create tooling in order to mass produce the furniture. This company was also one of the first to incorporate graphite and Kevlar into furniture and we were always trying new ways in the studio in which to use these materials.
Nora Toure: Could you detail your first experience with 3D scanning?
Lisa Federici: I was having a candid conversation with one of the salesmen that we bought the materials from and mentioned our dilemma in trying to get our organic designs into a computer for manufacturing. He mentioned to me that the military had developed something called 3D scanning in the attempt to capture the geometry of existing objects in the computer. The military was blowing up targets and then scanning them to gauge how well their weapons and ammo worked. It just so happened, that one of the inventors of the technology, lived in Monterey, CA and the salesman gave me his name.
After repeated attempts to get the attention of the inventor, he finally agreed to take my call and we set up a time to meet. One visit was all it took and my partner and I knew we were hooked. What we saw was mind blowing and we knew we were going to find a way to get involved. This was 1989 and nothing like it existed anywhere.
Our first project to try out the technology was with a now defunct company called Cyberware, who agreed to scan one of the furniture company’s organic table designs. Cyberware took 4 separate 3D scans and gave them to us. It was up to us to figure how and if we could use them. We ended up hiring a company called Failure Analysis who put their top engineer on the task and it took him 6 weeks to knit the 4 scans together into a single description of the object.
Nora Toure: Could you explain furthermore what Scansite is and the services that you are providing?
Lisa Federici: Scansite3D is a leading 3D scanning, reverse engineering and 3D inspection service provider. We also do CAD development and are now working in virtual and augmented reality. Basically, any company or industry that has a need for high resolution 3D data, we work with.
Nora Toure: Who are your customers?
Lisa Federici: Our clients are from all over the globe. We work with automotive and aerospace companies, industrial design firms, art and cultural heritage institutions, medical devices manufacturers and in research and forensics. Our clients include the N.Y. Metropolitan Museum, Hewlett Packard, Hasbro, Square, Fitbit, NASA, Major League Baseball and Boeing.
Nora Toure: How do you use 3D Printing?
Lisa Federici: 3D printing is an add-on service we provide for the convenience of our clients. The 3D printing / 3D scanning industry is very fragmented and; unfortunately, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there. Often our clients are new to the industry and ask that we provide process and material suggestions and then handle getting it done on their behalf. We use 3D printing extensively with our art and cultural heritage clients for sculpture reduction, as well as, conservation and restoration work. We also use it with our manufacturing clients to make ‘fit’ models and proof of concept so they can sign off on their designs before committing to expensive tooling.
Nora Toure: How did you came to build the company?
Lisa Federici: Scansite3D was built on sheer perseverance! No banks would loan us any money and I wasn’t familiar with the start-up culture. I was younger then and taking on a technology that no one had ever heard of didn’t seem that impossible. My partner/husband is a self-taught engineer (an architect by trade) and he spent hundreds of hours figuring the technology out and how to make it work in the real world. I figured out how to sell it to clients!
Nora Toure: Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company to share with us?
Lisa Federici: There were many times when I felt like we were in over our heads. This was the very beginning of the internet and pre- PC computer era. All of our scanning equipment ran on Silicon Graphics and you used them by typing code on the command line. We scraped together $80,000 to buy a used ‘Octane’ that now sits in my office as a door stop!
Nora Toure: As a woman entrepreneur, what was/ is your biggest challenge?
Lisa Federici: Early in my career, I used to teach scanning and reverse engineering seminars for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and I was often the only woman in the room. That can be intimidating but it can be empowering too. The key to success is to know your stuff. When you know your stuff, you can be confident. A confident woman is formidable.
Nora Toure: Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
Lisa Federici: 3D is very blessed in that we continue to get involved in some really great projects. Recently, we made the new batting champion awards for Major League Baseball, just completed the Tony Bennett sculpture installed at the Fairmont last weekend and are about to install a new Jackie Robinson sculpture at Dodgers Stadium. We’re also currently working with development partners on several augmented and virtual reality projects.
Nora Toure: What makes the 3D scanning and 3D Printing industries particularly interesting for you? As a business person?
Lisa Federici: 3D scanning is the bridge between the real world and the computer. 3D printing is the tool that allows 3D data to take form; to come to life. These tools are changing the world we live in. Almost anything you can think of is possible now; it’s only a matter of time and budget. I love what I do and, as an entrepreneur, it has plenty of diversity and challenges to keep me engaged. Every project that walks through the door is different and I find that fun!
Nora Toure: As a woman?
Lisa Federici: I was very fortunate to have grown up in a family that never recognized the divide between men’s and women’s roles. My father encouraged my sister and I do whatever we wanted and since my three brothers were often involved in cool stuff like building things, sports, cars or boats, I went right along with them. Before I started Scansite3D, I started and ran a coast to coast household moving company. I honestly didn’t see it as unusual; I saw it as a way to make money and travel!
Nora Toure: What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
Lisa Federici: 3D printing has come a long way in a very short amount of time! The continual refinements in hardware and the fabulous array of material available is amazing! I love the fact that printers are being used in very untraditional ways – in medicine and food production and I even saw one recently that was being used to make mud hut houses in Africa. There’s no limitation when it comes to people’s imaginations and I think what we’re seeing is just the beginning and I’m excited about the future. My hope is that these technologies can be used to help solve some of our future’s biggest challenges and bring good to the world.
Nora Toure: In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D-related industries?
Lisa Federici: Our brains are programmed to think in 3D and I find that women, in particular, are very successful working in it. At Scansite3D we spend a considerable amount of time editing data and do quite a bit of high profile projects that range from Michelangelo to Star Wars and women are detail oriented by nature. Many of my best editors and engineers are women. Women also think outside the box and are quite creative when problem solving.
We’re often asked to multi-task much more than men and we’re very good at keeping things together. It’s OK to be a mom, an entrepreneur, a wife, a student and an employee all at once. You can do this and you can succeed. If you’re like me, you’re much happier with too much to do than not enough. Whatever your passions are, follow them. Don’t let anyone tell you, “You can’t.” 3D is a wide open opportunity for women. Just go for it!
If you are interested in learning more about Lisa and Scansite, I invite you to check their website here.
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Thank you for reading and for sharing!