There are many places in which you could pick up the story of Hyperganic CEO Lin Kayser. There’s the child inspired by technology, the entrepreneurial teenager, the successful businessperson rubbing shoulders with Hollywood actors and now the spearhead of a team that talks seriously of a ‘paradigm shift’ in design.
That kind of chat followed Kayser’s purchase of a 3D printer in 2012. For someone who thinks of software as an ‘amazing technology that can create anything,’ having a 3D printer fabricate some of those things physically saw Kayser hooked immediately. While at that time many in the industry were positing the idea that a 3D printer would be in every home, one of the technology’s hobbyist users was captivated by its potential to ‘transform’ the way we manufacture. Not long after, he handed his notice in at his then-employer Adobe, set up a new start-up in his hometown of Munich and is still motivated by that very thought nearly ten years on.
“The key thing for us is to dramatically accelerate innovation,” Kayser begins. “We believe that innovation of physical objects has not been progressing very fast. And we believe that we have a lot of challenges as humanity that we need to solve through physical objects. Think about last year, we shut the entire world down, essentially, and it had how much impact on carbon emission? It had one, but we didn’t have enough impact to make a dent in climate change, for example. The technical solutions that we have need to change in order to address [these issues].”
Hyperganic’s contribution to that is the Core 2.0 and Print Framework 2.0 software tools it is launching formally in the coming months, after years operating in stealth and even more time carrying out R&D. As Kayser saw 3D printing’s potential to alter the way things are made, he also observed that ‘maybe we should also change the way we design things and engineer things.’ He believes that 3D printers are not so much limited by their technology as they are by the designs that are fed into them. And so, Hyperganic has set about developing tools that not only aim to change how parts are designed, but in doing so, take full advantage of 3D printing’s capabilities.
We have a lot of global challenges that we need to solve and we’re kind of running out of time.
From the outset, Kayser and the company’s CTO Michael Gallo believed they would not be able to enable the paradigm shift they think is necessary with traditional CAD software that ‘work very nicely for simple shapes, but terribly for complex things.’ In one conversation, Gallo is said to have suggested creating a model where ‘we basically store every atom, every molecule in an object and then we can design anything the printer can print.’ “Of course,” Kayser recalls, “we had a good laugh and said, ‘this is ridiculous.’ But then a couple of days later, Michael calls me and says, ‘hey Lin, why don’t we try this?’”
Building the high voxel engine that would enable Hyperganic to do this took three to four years. But now, Kayser and co are confident their platform can ‘represent any object that a 3D printer can theoretically output.’ That opens them up to objects of such extremely high complexity that the development of the parts, Kayser says, need to be automated.
“This is where we end up in AI-based engineering, where you can use genetic algorithms and use neural nets to find out interesting patterns and structures that work well,” Kayser explains. “And why is that so interesting to me? That has its roots in a fundamental frustration. Take a modern car and strip away all the plastic decoration that they put on, it doesn’t look that different from a car from the 1980s or 1990s. And you ask yourself, why has innovation not happened faster? Because we need it urgently, we have a lot of global challenges that we need to solve and we’re kind of running out of time. And the problem is that the paradigms that we use to engineer objects are derived from the way the Greeks and the Romans designed objects. The smart guy or smart girl sitting in front of a computer and drawing stuff on the screen and it always depends on the intelligence and experience of the designer and engineer to know what comes out of it.”
Hyperganic’s idea is to develop algorithms, input a description of the part and allow the artificial intelligence to take care of the design of that component. It leans on some of the principles of generative design tools, building optimised designs from scratch and then allowing the user to harness the intelligence generated for other products. Hyperganic refers to this as ‘defining a way to design’, rather than simply designing with sketches and CAD drawings. This idea has been adopted in the computer hardware space where initially microchips had been sketched, and then later designed in a CAD programme, but once they got so complex, they had to change the approach.
“Instead of doing computer-aided design, you have to do computer-generated design,” Kayser explains. “If today you design a microchip, you’re not doing it geometrically, you’re doing it algorithmically. You’re describing what the algorithm should do and the algorithm comes up with the actual geometry. Fundamentally, that’s what we want to do for the rest of the world.”
Since Hyperganic first engineered its software a few years back – before Kayser had even incorporated the company in 2017 – the company has been working with customers to develop concept applications by combining its Core offering with 3D printing technology. One of those applications is a customised bicycle helmet that was derived from the scan data of a triathlete’s head and statistical crash data procured from research into how cyclists fall when they come off their bike. This information was factored into the Hyperganic algorithm and output thousands of design possibilities, with the selected one looking like a slimline cap, with room for ventilation at the top of the helmet and a less porous structure around the sides to protect the user’s fall.
“This is the power of mass customisation,” Kayser told the All Digital Additive Manufacturing YouTube channel in January. “First of all, it fits the right person, and secondly you can take new information into account and in the next production run, immediately there is a better product. This can only happen if you have algorithms creating these things because no human ever has the time to adapt everything all of the time.”
Another application the company has been working on is a heat sink additively manufactured in copper that looks more like the bristles of a brush or a coral in the ocean than a typical heat sink. Its surface area has been maximised to allow it to dissipate as much heat as possible, while the funnelling of air to the bottom of the component has also been optimised. This is considered to be an incredibly complex design to tackle, per Kayser, but because it was developed with an algorithm, it’s not a complexity that Hyperganic needs to address again and again.
“When you implement it once, you can reuse it everywhere and sometimes it’s really surprising where you end up,” he says. “For example, the heat exchanger, because of the algorithm it uses, it generates structures that are very stable, so you can stand on it. We’ve now been using that in completely different applications where you need something that distributes the weight evenly. It’s so interesting because we actually just wanted to radiate a lot of heat and be aerodynamically optimised so that the air flows and takes the heat out.”
Transferring the artificial intelligence within algorithms from one application to another is a core part of Hyperganic’s vision and could enable users to get head starts on the development of new products. The company refers to the algorithms as building blocks that can be relied on for more than its initial use. Hyperganic’s Core tools are considered the foundation of its platform. It’s where the company harnesses AI to develop applications, where it uses voxels at printer resolution or higher to represent geometry with ‘arbitrary complexity’, and where it has added new visualisation options in the latest version. Hyperganic has also sought to align with Microsoft Visual Studio, recognising the need to shift to an industry-standard programming environment. This is where applications are brought to fruition.
But it’s the Print Framework tools that will enable Hyperganic customers to go from software model to real-life component. Here, Hyperganic provides all the capabilities that would be expected of print preparation tools – mesh repair, slicing, support generation, nesting and stacking – while there are also built-in lightweighting and texturing options, as well as an enhanced support structure. The company has made efforts to add multi-material support for extrusion-based systems and Stratasys’ J Series PolyJet portfolio, with ‘significant enhancements’ for FFF 3D printing including gapless infill, anti-oozing, automatic arc detection and adaptive path rooting. Compatible with most 3D printing processes currently on the market; this is where users add the finishing touches before additively manufacturing their part.
One of the first components to come through this process was a rocket combustion chamber, the kind of application that is often seen at additive manufacturing trade shows, printed with embedded and optimised cooling channels for one of the many private space companies active today. For Kayser, there’s a sentimental value in developing these types of application for this type of end-user. In the 1970s, his uncle, Lutz Kayser, was the founder of Orbital Transport and Rockets, Inc (ORTAG), the very first private space company which carried out several successful test launches in Africa, but was defunct by 1987. His tale is one of vision, ambition, innovation and plenty of controversy. But it doesn’t stop him being nicknamed the ‘German Elon’ and it doesn’t stop him from having a special place in his nephew’s heart.
I’m 49-years-old. This is probably going to be my last gig. I want to pull the biggest lever that I can pull.
In 2017, after Lutz passed away, Kayser wrote a blog in which he recounted how his uncle had handed him a copy of BYTE Magazine which set him on this path. By the age of eight or nine, he knew how to code. By 19, he ran his own design company, printing brochures for local pizza parlours. In 1994, he worked at a start-up ‘helping to disrupt’ the market for control systems in industrial machines. At the turn of the Millennium, he founded another company, this time developing the first product targeted for high fidelity digital film playback, which saw him work on the 2002 film the Matrix, and quickly became the industry standard for digital film playback. This firm, called IRIDAS, was acquired by Adobe in 2011, where Kayser stayed for three years before leaving to focus on an endeavour that you now know as Hyperganic, bringing with him several old colleagues from IRIDAS and Adobe to go again from within the same office. Since 2014, he has been working with customers to explore applications, but always concerned that his vision for design and manufacturing isn’t ready to be embraced.
“Is the world ready for that? Or is there a lot of stuff that still needs to evolve? You don’t want to be too early with a start-up,” he already knows.
Kayser, though, is going to take a run at it. The sample applications that have been derived from the Hyperganic platform are objectively impressive. He has managed to align with 3D printer vendors to make their technology compatible with his. It is now about proving the technology’s capabilities, its value and its place in the future of manufacturing.
“Usually, people say, oh yeah, a rocket engine, but I’m not building a rocket engine, so that’s not for me. They don’t get that transfer. And so, what we have to do is translate it into an object that makes sense for that specific engineer and for that company. That’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we imagine we will have to continue doing for quite a while. What we are now doing is showing on our platform, this is an app that builds this, here’s how we did it, and hopefully, it will inspire people.
“But I’m under no illusions, this is going to be a huge shift for a lot of engineers. This is not going to happen overnight, I’m completely aware of the complexity of that problem. And it will start small. You will create a little heat exchanger or a rocket engine – rocket combustion chambers are not particularly hard, they look cool, but they are not highly complex engineering challenges – but if you solve those once, you don’t have to engineer it again and this is a paradigm breakthrough.”
In working with early customers and partners, Kayser says Hyperganic is often putting in front of them something they didn’t know they needed. The company is pitching a new way of working for these companies and their engineers, and that leads to them wanting assurances around ease-of-use. In the onboarding of ten new employees recently, Kayser and the company’s leadership team again realised how much they take their familiarity of and fluency with the Hyperganic platform for granted. He knows through the studies of one of his children that programming is often not a feature on design curricula, and he knows through the hiring of engineers from, for example, the aerospace field that it does not always prove to be a seamless technology or mindset to get to grips with.
“How do you make it as easily accessible as possible? Wow, that’s the stuff that keeps me up at night,” Kayser admits. “It should be a no brainer to build stuff. There’s only one thing that I think our customers constantly and repeatedly ask for and that’s simplicity. That’s the biggest challenge. How do you make it so simple that a five-year-old could use it? It’s the eternal strive for simplicity. And it’s a journey.”
It is one that Hyperganic is determined to go on as Kayser harnesses the ambition to ‘bring Moore’s Law to manufacturing.’ His career so far has seen him do interesting things alongside interesting people, but ever since seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in 2008, Kayser has wanted to drive change with whatever came next. Through Hyperganic, he wants to help transform the way parts are designed, to shorten the time between inception and production, to ‘distribute ideas instantly, rather than retrain engineers all around the world,’ and ultimately ‘dramatically accelerate innovation’ in the face of today’s global challenges.
“I’m 49-years-old. This is probably going to be my last gig, so I thought really long about what I want to do. After all these amazing things that I did, it was really cool working with Hollywood folks, it’s nice, they’re really funny people, etc, but you want to spend your time wisely. I want to pull the biggest lever that I can pull. And, after five years of Hyperganic, I’ve not found a bigger lever that I can pull than this one. It’s not self-evident that this will succeed, it’s a crazy amount of work. But if we succeed, it’s really going to make a dent. And that’s what we’re about. We want to dramatically accelerate innovation because I think that’s how we can solve a lot of the issues that we face.”
Want to discuss? Join the conversation on the Additive Manufacturing Global Community Discord.
Get your FREE print subscription to TCT Magazine.