Innovations
Published: July 26, 2023
Innovations
Published: July 26, 2023

Cindy Kutchko: The Pioneer Behind Ambient Reactive Extrusion

Cindy Kutchko, PPG's director of additive manufacturing, has dedicated an incredible 35 years to her career at our company. Throughout this time, she has been driving innovation, conducting research, expanding our customer base, and, most notably, playing a pivotal role in the development of the PPG Ambient Reactive Extrusion™ (PPG ARE™) technology. Cindy's exceptional achievements have earned her numerous awards and patents, both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Building a Dream and a 3D Printer

Cindy joined our analytical services group in 1988 and swiftly progressed through various technical roles within our company before being appointed as a senior research chemist in the rapid prototyping group.

"I dedicated the majority of my career to conducting research for PPG. I had the opportunity to work on numerous innovative technologies that we launched over the years."

While in the rapid prototyping group, Cindy devoted a significant amount of her time to brainstorming progressive ideas and driving the development of new technologies. At that time, 3D printing components seemed like an ambitious goal, but that didn't deter Cindy. 

Nobody at our company knew how to 3D print. On top of that, we had to build the equipment ourselves! But we managed and we actually started 3D printing for the first time in 2016.

Four years later, the first large-scale production printer was constructed and put to use by the team. In that same year, Cindy was appointed as senior group leader of additive manufacturing, and recently, in 2022, transitioned to the director of additive manufacturing role that she holds today. In this role she manages the marketing and strategy for growing ARE technology.

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What Led to Ambient Reactive Extrusion?

When Cindy and her team were at the forefront of driving innovations, they identified a unique gap in the market. While exploring new additive manufacturing technologies, they realized that no one was working with two liquid formulas that could be mixed together in a 3D printer to produce components.

Traditional manufacturing processes typically involve removing excess materials to create the desired part. In contrast, additive manufacturing relies on the exact amount of material being deposited into a specific layout and design.

Additive manufacturing reduces waste, conserves energy, and significantly shortens the time required to bring the product to market thanks to the absence of the manual factor in the production process. According to our own research, automated production saves customer costs by more than 30%.

The Ambient Reactive Extrusion that we developed is well-suited for large scale printing. Thanks to the liquid reactive technology designed by PPG, we can print up to 10 times faster than other existing technologies.

PPG ARE by itself is a great example of how innovation and evolution in the field of manufacturing can combine to deliver affordable, customized and durable components.

The 3D printed Aerospace sealant gaskets that we produce using this technology come fully cured, ready for quick application. By leveraging our 3D printing of gaskets and seals, the customers can rely on a fast production process, minimal need for rework and high quality of their sealing solutions.

With Good Teamwork, the Sky is the Limit

Researching and coming up with an innovative solution was not the final goal for Cindy, nor was it just a milestone along the way. After implementing PPG ARE, she understood that the next challenge would be to promote it in the market and identify potential buyers. Cindy recalls that it required a great deal of perseverance, patience, and determination to push things forward.

In a technical role, you wear many hats. Especially in front end technology. But learning to wear them all can help you prepare for other roles, just as it happened for me.

A well-executed strategy and a successful partnership between Cindy’s team and Aerospace sales team have played a vital role in establishing PPG ARE as a prominent player in the aerospace industry. One notable achievement is our recent supply of custom designed ramp seals for Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules military aircraft, marking the company's first commercial sale of 3D printed parts in 2021.

Cindy highlights that all this was the result of well functioning teamwork. "Without everyone contributing their skills and efforts, additive manufacturing wouldn't have reached the position it holds today."

What began as a mere idea has evolved into a fully developed and patented process exclusively owned by PPG, benefiting the aerospace industry worldwide. As Cindy expresses, being present at the inception of all this progress stands as her biggest #PPGproud moment.

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