The Rise of Composites Leads to a Life-Changing Decision for Ross Jones
When Ross Jones first stepped on campus as a freshman at Michigan Tech University (MTU), his ultimate goal was to make sporting equipment. He played sports in high school and grew up at a time when composites were first being used for bats and hockey sticks. Seeing composites were the material of the future in sports, he figured with his decision to pursue engineering that combining the two would make for the perfect career path. Now a Tooling Applications Engineer at Stratasys, Ross still works closely with composites but had actually found his real passion before he even realized it.
After one year at MTU, Ross decided to return to his Minnesotan roots and attend Winona State University for their focused program on composite materials engineering. This is where he first came across 3D printing in a yearlong design class. For their class project, his group chose to create floating sunglasses. To make their sunglasses, someone suggested that they use 3D printing. At the time, Ross thought nothing of it and just figured that this was the method that made the most sense for completing the project. It wasn’t until years later that he realized this moment would be his initial introduction to his true passion.
Ross’ first job out of college was with a small consulting firm in Madison, WI called The Madison Group. There he worked as a Plastics Engineer performing failure analysis and material testing as well as manufacturing simulations for various clients. While working at The Madison Group, a new plastics engineer was hired, who Ross became good friends with. Ross discovered that his new coworker had built his own 3D printer. A proposition that Ross considered absurd, but being an engineer, this naturally peaked his interest. When questioned how he managed to build his own 3D printer, his friend responded “you’d be surprised what’s out there….just Google it”, which Ross promptly did. He soon came across the RepRap movement, an open source community with a mission to create general-purpose self-replicating manufacturing machines. Although RepRap encompasses many different technologies like CNC and laser cutting, the vast majority of the community’s work centers around 3D printing. Shortly after discovering the capabilities of 3D printing, Ross saw the potential for 3D printing in the manufacturing industry.
I believe we are at a critical point in the trajectory of AM technology were we have the opportunity to significantly impact the greater manufacturing industry.
As Ross’ fascination with 3D printing expanded, so did his opportunities. While he was applying for a position at Stratasys, he had also applied to grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the intent to focus his research on additive manufacturing. While going through the interview process, he was accepted into the program at UW-Madison but held off on enrolling until he heard back from Stratasys. It got down to a week before he had to sign up for classes until he got the job offer and ultimately chose Stratasys, which he claims is the best decision he could’ve made.
In summer 2015, Ross started out on the manufacturing solutions team, working with Ultem 9085 and supporting the medical group with various projects. He transitioned into the composite tooling group in early 2016 because of his degree in composite materials. Ross now wears many hats as a composite solutions team member with his responsibilities ranging from discovering new applications to customer engagement to creating design guides.
Working in a role where I get to help customers push the envelope of both additive manufacturing and composites technology is an absolute dream.
Even when Ross isn’t at work, he’s still 3D printing on the machine he built himself. When he was still just learning about 3D printing back at The Madison Group, he was inspired by his friend to make his own 3D printer. Ross wanted to make his own 3D printer so he could better learn the motions, electronics, and mechanics of the additive manufacturing process. However, before he could do that, there was one thing it was contingent on. According to Ross, “The deal was that if my wife could get a dog, I could get a 3D printer.” So now when Ross isn’t 3D printing, he’s spending his time with his two dogs, Sunny, a lab terrier mix and Bella, a Chihuahua Pomeranian mix, at dog parks throughout the Twin Cities area.
Ross is truly doing what he loves, and we love having him do it at Stratasys. We will be doing more features like this one to highlight the employees that make this company what it is. If you are a Stratasys employee, or know someone who is, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your, or their, story to be the next feature on the blog.