Smart Futures Interview
with Jack Sutcliffe
Smart Futures help people discover STEM subjects & careers that suit
them and one of the ways they encourage this is by interviewing
professionals in STEM such as our product designer, Jack Sutcliffe,
to get some insights into his work.
Jack Sutcliffe is a Product Designer at WAZP, a supply chain company specializing in Additive Manufacturing, commonly called ‘3D Printing’.
My name is Jack Sutcliffe, a Product Designer at WAZP based in Tralee. WAZP is a digital supply-chain company specialised in additive manufacturing, commonly called ‘3D printing’.
My main role as a designer is to take existing products produced using traditional manufacturing methods and shape them into a solution which is now optimised for 3D printing. I’ve always loved problem solving and experiencing new things. This is reflected in my personal life too, I enjoy travelling, scuba diving and reading. Looking back to my days in school, I’ve always been curious and wanting to know how things work or make them better.
Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?
Yes, back in school I remember thinking the different school subjects being distinct bodies of knowledge, things I just learned to get my points and not needed for the real world. But now I realised the knowledge and skills I learned from the STEM classes can be used in many different ways in my life today. For example, when setting up lab experiments in school, you wanted to test a hypothesises, you had to understand the different variables. I still use that way of thinking to problem solve issues I encounter on a daily basis at work now.
Do you believe that there is enough being done to encourage girls and minorities to study STEM and pursue STEM careers?
I believe so, personally I’ve constantly been surrounded by women who have been great advocates for STEM careers. The co-founder and COO of WAZP, Mariana Kobal, was shortlisted and runner-up for the 2019 IMAGE Businesswoman of the year ‘Digital & Technology Businesswoman of the Year’ Category. Mariana has been a great mentor to me and this recent recognition is fantastic for encouraging young women.
At work we hosted an international food day where the staff brought in a dish from they’re county or home nation. We have dishes from across the world like the Philippines, India, Ukraine and Leitrim. We have a very inclusive culture in our work space and I can see more and more places doing the same online now too.
Describe an interesting day in your current position.
Everyday in the design team brings something new to explore and solve. Frequently, we’re given a project brief where we know what the end goal is but aren’t sure how to get there yet. It’s really exciting coming up with different approaches then going off and testing the different ways to make it work. The really great days in the office are when one of these methods “clicks” and it all comes together nicely.
Do you get to work with any new technologies?
All the time! The company specialises in additive manufacturing, which is commonly called “3D printing”. The technology was created back in the 80’s but has seen massive growth in the last 10 years. One of the big differences between traditional manufacturing methods like injections moulding or milling machines is that 3D printing combines the raw material layer-by-layer to create an object. Imagine your normal 2D paper printer at home, but instead of adding ink on a new page. The ink layers would stack on top of each other, leaving a 3D physical model ready to be used at the end of your printer.
We’re able to create some amazing, complex things using this way because of how unique this method is compared to other traditional manufacturing methods. From a sustainability point of view, we’re able to reduce the amount of raw material wasted during the process then recycle it back into the machine to be reused again for the next printing operation.
Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
Yes, my most recent trip I travelled to Paris to attend an eyewear trade show. At the event I was able see all the trends for styles and patterns for the upcoming year but also what new technologies are being used. Being part of a ‘digital’ supply chain company, we’re fortunate that most of our business is overseas and so get to travel a lot. Depending on project needs, I could travel across Europe and even as far as Asia if need be.
What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
I work with quite a few experts, on the more technical side of my job, working with the engineering team is exciting. The technology we use is relatively new so we’re constantly learning of how to improve different aspects of our design process and manufacturing procedures. I also work closely with the sales team, I have great admiration towards them, they’re selling something that is novel and hasn’t been seen before. Working together with them, we try to find the best fit for this new technology into existing manufacturing supply chains.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?
I hope to master a new set of skills I learned while designing for additive manufacturing. With this new technology, a few new set of tools were created which we can use to create products. One of the tools we use is called Siemens NX, it’s a CAD package and we use it to create the 3D models before printing. I hope to master some of the features unique to 3D printing such as texturing and lattice structures which can be used in a number of different industries which will benefit my role in the company.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
Just keep asking “why?” and be curious about the world around you, take note of the small details in your everyday life. Like, why do we keep the teabags next to the kettle or why some people keep the car facing out of the driveway and others don’t?
The better you understand the world around you, the better chance you have of improving it.
Do you feel secure in the fact that you can earn a living from a career in STEM?
Yes, I do, being a Product Designer gives me huge amount of versatility in terms of possible industries I’m able to work in. If it’s biomedical, aerospace or even toy design, I believe my core understanding of the design process and manufacturing technologies give me a sense of security and progression for my career.
What television series are you currently watching?
Anything Sci-fi or fantasy, I love seeing imaginative, fictional worlds. Recently, “The Expanse” on Amazon Prime is my favourite, its set in the future roughly 100 years from now where humans have colonised Mars and the outer asteroid belt. The story drops you right in the middle when war between the three groups is inevitable. I love it so much because even though it’s a Science Fiction themed show, what they’re fight over is very real (resources and independence) and I can easily see similar things happening to us when we explore the stars too. The set design, props and ‘future’ technology shown too is very tangible, its not too far off where we are today which I really enjoy.