Selling To NASA: Exclusive Interview with Dr. Bhaskar Dutta of DM3D Technology
3:11 - Richard Howard Well, hey everyone, thanks for tuning into the Dod Contract Academy podcast this week. Today, I'm with Pash Car and he is with Dm Three D Technology. Pash Car. How are you doing today? 3:26 - Bhaskar Dutta I'm doing great, wonderful, 3:29 - Richard Howard Well, hey, 3:29 - Bhaskar Dutta happy to join this podcast.
3:29 - Richard Howard thanks. We're glad to have you on. Thanks for joining, By the way, and you know, one of the things that like to do is have companies on that are selling in different sectors to the government and just talk to them a little bit about their journey and how they've been doing it. And it's interesting for the audience to hear practitioners in the art and just to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. So What I'd like to start off with is maybe a little bit about you, 3:57 - Bhaskar Dutta Sure.
4:01 - Richard Howard if you could. Tell me a little bit about yourself. 4:05 - Bhaskar Dutta Sure, so I'm, I'm a metallurgist by background, you know, that's my, my bachelor's, master's, Phd, everything is on metallurgy and metal processing and I've been in this for like 30 years now. A long time to be dealing with metals, but it's been fun, it's been fun. I love metals and metal processing and currently our company, what we do additive manufacturing. So I've been in this added manufacturing for about 20 years now. 4:37 - Richard Howard Okay, excellent. So metallurgy is that. I
mean I would assume that falls kind of under geology. Is that where you 1st started kind of learning about? 4:47 - Bhaskar Dutta no. So it's like metallurgical engineering, you know? 4:50 - Richard Howard Okay, 4:50 - Bhaskar Dutta So now it's more called material science and engineering. But when we did our bachelors back in those days, in 80 s, it was metallurgical engineering fully focused on metals. 5:01 - Richard Howard okay. 5:02 - Bhaskar Dutta and then slowly it evolved and people started including like, you know, ceramics and polymers into this. So the subject is more called material
science and engineering now, but it's metallurgical and engineering. 5:14 - Richard Howard Okay. 5:17 - Bhaskar Dutta And the way metallurgy was defined in our days was making, shaping, and treating of metals in three words, three simple wards making, shipping, and treating. So we start where the mining people leave, you know, the
geologist survey the ors in the earth and then mining people digs it out and then it over to us and then we take it over from them and then start, you know, extracting metals from the oars and then eventually you shape them like, you know, bar stock or round stock or forging or casting or extrusion whatever, like usable forms. 5:56 - Richard Howard That's really interesting. What got you into that initially? 6:01 - Bhaskar Dutta Got me into that. That is a long story. So You know, when I was growing up as a child, like I had an uncle and he was a mechanical engineer and he always inspired me to go into engineering, he would give me like, 6:16 - Richard Howard Okay. 6:17 - Bhaskar Dutta you know, toys and things to build things, always building things. And that's how I got into more mechanical engineering. And then
eventually he was working and then he switched into areas where there was a lot of overlap between metallurgy and mechanical engineering. So when I graduated from high school. He's like, you know, middle is a very nice place to be in at this time, so maybe he should look into that. And I'm like, okay, give it a try. So that's how I, that's kind of how I got into this and it has been ever since my life, 6:51 - Richard Howard Okay, 6:53 - Bhaskar Dutta you know. 6:54 - Richard Howard and you're, well, I can already tell you, you're highly intelligent. The only thing I knew about metals, back in the eighties was Metallica and uh. 7:03 - Bhaskar Dutta That is, that is a different.
7:05 - Richard Howard That's a different, that's definitely a different area, but it's all good. 7:07 - Bhaskar Dutta That's exciting, too. 7:09 - Richard Howard Exactly, they're fun too, they're still going, they're still doing great, very cool, okay, So you grew up with that and kind of inspired in that area and then you went to school for it and when did you come to Dm, three d? 7:25 - Bhaskar Dutta uh it's been uh so dm three d is a relatively newer company started in twenty thirteen but it acquired an older company pom group a pm group was formed in ninety nine it was like a sort of offshoot from university of michigan so that was early days of three dd printing and additive manufacturing area so a professor joi mazumdar from university of michigan so he had a patented technology and pom group was formed with that and he recruited me to work for them back in two thousand four so I started with pom group in two thousand four you know M group remained like R amp D businesss. 8:05 - Richard Howard Okay.
8:15 - Bhaskar Dutta It did a lot of like federal contracts and advancing the technology and so on. 8:18 - Richard Howard Sure. 8:21 - Bhaskar Dutta But joy being a professor, you know, his mindset was very much into R amp D. He loved it and he was a great guy. 8:27 - Richard Howard Hey.
8:29 - Bhaskar Dutta I mean one of the phenomenal researchers who he ever had here, but you know, it was always R amp D. So eventually in twenty twenty twelve like the group then which was funding it kind of said oh we need to be more commercial so that's when it kind of transitioned into dmc d technology so it was a new group dmc d and the new investors they wanted to focus it towards commercialization of the technology and that's when I took over the company from jodi and he kind of left the business and went back to university so. 8:59 - Richard Howard Okay. Okay, interesting. So right now, what's your role in the business right now? 9:15 - Bhaskar Dutta So I'm the president and chief operating officer of the company, Yeah, 9:20 - Richard Howard Okay, so. 9:20 - Bhaskar Dutta overseeing development and the growth and all of that. 9:26 - Richard Howard That's, that's a, it's a hard job, you know, before we get into like the government contracting aspects of it, you know, just because we have a lot of people in similar positions, you know, on the business that are listening here, 9:37 - Bhaskar Dutta Sure.
9:40 - Richard Howard I'm just curious kind of in the job that you have now running the businesss, what do you consider kind of the most challenging aspects of it and the most rewarding? 9:50 - Bhaskar Dutta The challenging aspect is, you know, So the additive manufacturing on metals, that's what we do, is a relatively new technology and The markets that we are working in is typically like space aerospace and defense. Now these are great areas and great feed for our technology. However, however. These critical applications have a very long qualification and certification lead time, which means, you know? You demonstrate a product, but to get it to production takes a very, very, very long time. 10:29 - Bhaskar Dutta And that's a very difficult thing for, particularly for small businesses, you know, I mean, it's one thing when General Electric Aviation for Example I mean, they design a new engine, they work ten years in advance. I mean, that's
common for them, right? That's very common in space and aerospace, but for a small businesss. If you were in a new engine program and you have to wait for ten years. That's a significant challenge, you know, I mean there's a cash flow and all kinds of things you have to handle. 11:03 - Bhaskar Dutta So. 11:04 - Richard Howard Yeah, with all the certifications and approvals and all the spec, 11:06 - Bhaskar Dutta Yes. 11:08 - Richard Howard everything involved with aviation and I mean without even, I guess without even introducing the government contracting process, which takes a long time, 11:17 - Bhaskar Dutta That's correct, yeah.
11:19 - Richard Howard the approval process for parts on Araf. 11:21 - Bhaskar Dutta Yeah. Technical approval process is correct, 11:23 - Richard Howard Aa Like all of that I would think are things that you guys end with. 11:23 - Bhaskar Dutta yeah. It takes a long, long time, yeah.
11:30 - Richard Howard okay interesting but so you're doing you have a commercial line of revenue but you're also selling to the government could we talk a little bit about that I mean it sounds like you had some government contracts and the original instantiation of the businesss back in the early two thousand seconds but this one and this is how I found you just I was researching in this area we hadn't had any additive manufacturing companies on the podcast and so I could see some government contracts that you've put together can you talk a little bit about You entered uh, the space and maybe what some of the 1st contracts, you know, you don't have to go into too much detail, but kind of the 1st couple of things that you guys, worked on. 12:14 - Bhaskar Dutta Sure. You know, like I said. M group since it was more like R A D businesss, so started with R amp D and advancing the technology and we started with Sbr programs. So I think one of the 1st programs we had was a Sbr program with Us Army developing new machines for this technology. 12:37 - Richard Howard Okay. 12:43 - Bhaskar Dutta We developed, design, built, demonstrated, and then installed finally the machine in Aniston Army Depot. That was during Pom groups
time and then several systems were built, including for Us Navy, and so we have like several systems in the Dod. So that's how we kind of started it and that evolved into other programs right now our major customer is nasa for example A lot of it is still Sb Iirs, but Sbi are three where you are more in the commercialization phase, you know, not ones and twos, 13:26 - Richard Howard Interesting. 13:28 - Bhaskar Dutta but more in the three, so more mature level of the technology. And so that's currently we are doing several Cbers with Nasa and then
there are other programs also Nas, yeah. 13:42 - Richard Howard It's interesting because and then for those listening that don't know what Sbi are, is a business innovative research program. It's great for businesses that have innovative technological solutions. The phase one that you mentioned, that's usually the 1st one you win. It's more of a low dollar technological feasibility study maybe, but what you're really trying to do there, 14:01 - Bhaskar Dutta Yes. 14:03 - Richard Howard right, is get a government sponsor. Someone
to sign a memorandum and sponsor you for phase two, which helps you to actually develop the solution. 14:13 - Bhaskar Dutta The solution correct? 14:15 - Richard Howard what I find interesting and and right now I mean that could be between one and one point nine million I saw one for one point nine million just a days it keeps going up each year And of course you can win multiple phase twos and we've talked to people that have done that. What is interesting though, about what you're saying is the phase three, right, because a lot of people will refer to that as the Valley of death. Getting between the phase two and the phase three, a lot of companies struggle there, struggle to ever go beyond the phase two. 14:42 - Richard Howard Can you talk a bit about that and maybe how you leveraged your cyber experience and turned those into phase three? 14:52 - Bhaskar Dutta it's all about so phase three is like exactly like you said phase one is basic level r amp dd right just proving the concept and then two is more proving the entire thing like not just the feasibility but demonstrating the whole concept and three is the commercialization of that so when you are actually making these machines for example some of the programs we built machines for us army under commercialization program and demonstrated some of the earlier concept developed in phase two so built parts and demonstrated that you can make manufacture these parts to the quality needed using the phase three funding it just simply allows you to work Towards more real life components and things, you know.
15:48 - Bhaskar Dutta End user can actually use it. It's not just a demonstration, but a real piece of hardware or anything else, design concepts or whatever it is. More ready for the end user to use it and test it out so you could do even field testing. Under such commercialization programs, 16:12 - Richard Howard The server program offers some benefits as far as being able to eliminate competition and sell directly. We able to take advantage
of those or. 16:23 - Bhaskar Dutta We did some, some soul sourcing. Yes, we were able to do some soul sourcing because these solutions were developed specifically for the end user, you know, by our company and our company alone. So yeah, if that justifies, then you can take advantage of sole source, but it has to be defied. 16:40 - Richard Howard Okay, 16:43 - Bhaskar Dutta You know, it's not just because somebody likes somebody else, 16:44 - Richard Howard sure.
16:46 - Bhaskar Dutta but it hass to be properly justified that there's no other solution exists and things like that. 16:52 - Richard Howard It's one of the one of the nice things about Sbir is it does. There is a language that allows for the sole source contract and, like you said, it has to be justified. However, the Without the Cibber, a sole source, it can be a lot harder for the government to award versus having a siver under your belt if that's the solution the government is looking for. So No, that's great. Could we talk a
little about maybe some of the other ways that you've sold to the government, or Contracting mechanisms Have you guys ever been involved with subcontracting with larger businesses or maybe competing on one of the, like a Nasa soup or Gsa? 17:33 - Bhaskar Dutta So not Gsa, but we, we have done, you know, we work with defense quite bit, so part of it. Like directly some of the suber programs but also go for some of the prime contractors for government like for dodd you know so there are multiple like you will go to our website and see huntington ingles for example ba systems Then irrigated Rocket. 17:49 - Richard Howard All right. 17:59 - Bhaskar Dutta N So these are different companies that are prime government contractors, Dod contractors. 18:06 - Richard Howard Sure. 18:07 - Bhaskar Dutta We do subcontracts for them in some of the programs, you know.
18:14 - Richard Howard And that's, it's pretty common to have a mixture of primes and subcontracts. And of course the big defense contractors, I mean they subcontracted a lot of different businesses. Do you have any advice for a company that maybe they have their foot in their door or maybe they want a Ser but they haven't subcontracted yet with a larger businesss, maybe things to watch out for and maybe some best practices. 18:39 - Bhaskar Dutta I didn't get the question. You're saying s
birs are strictly for small businesses. 18:47 - Richard Howard What I was saying is some small businesss owners that are listening to the podcast may have their foot in the door. 18:52 - Bhaskar Dutta Yeah. 18:53 - Richard Howard They may have a Sbir, maybe they have a contract as a prime, but a lot of them are thinking about subcontracting with some of the big defense contractors but haven't done it yet. And I was Wondering if you had any best practices or or cautions to somebody that hasn't approached that yet? 19:12 - Bhaskar Dutta Well, you know, I mean the best way is just simply to, to reach out to them and, you know, demonstrate what technology you have and then start discussing. But what Sebert does is, it is a funding opportunity, you know, so you can fund some of the research through this initial phase of work that nobody else wants to fund, typically, you know, I mean, you can take advantage of that. Do. A demonstrable
solution and ideal is while going into phase three, if you can connect through government to one of those prime contractors who are actually having service contracts for government for that kind of jobs, you know. 20:02 - Bhaskar Dutta So let's say, taking an example, I mean we are doing Engine Component Rocket Engine Component for government. There's already some of the contracts are given to you know, these big prime contractors. So in phase three, when you are going in, if you talk to your Dod partner and request them to connect with the actual prime contractor for that piece of business. They will be happy to do that because
at the end, it's also their goal to transition this newly developed technology to a regular production channel. 20:42 - Bhaskar Dutta For them, it's not just for the purpose of doing Some R amp d, right? If you reach out to them, and that's what we have done, you know, they have been extremely helping always to connect us with the prime contractors and we all work together. Funding may come from government, Dod, but we all work together because it's great for them to see what's happening and for government as well to connect the prime contractors and the potential subcontractors. 21:13 - Richard Howard now that that's interesting. I think we've talked about that meaning using a a government contact, maybe the program manager or a contracting officer, engineer, or somebody were working with on the government side or user through the programm and having them link you to a prime contractor, a larger defense company, which As you're saying, it's pretty, it's obvious to me. I'm thinking about all the times that I would link companies together. Hey, we're using, we're working with Northrop
on this one, or working with. 21:44 - Richard Howard Boeing or walked on this other one maybe or Bae, Like you're talking about so and making that connection for them, that is a good question, maybe to ask if you are in that position as a small business. 21:59 - Bhaskar Dutta Absolutely, You know, I mean I I I think like this is a win win for everybody, right? I mean it's good for government, good for the prime, and good for the small businesss as well. Because government typically does not
order one piece of component, two pieces and here and there, I mean it's a whole engine they're going to buy. They're not going to buy components by itself at the end of the day, you know, 22:24 - Richard Howard Sure. 22:24 - Bhaskar Dutta but so you have to work with whoever has the contract for the engine, you know. If you want to go into that route and supply production parts. 22:35 - Richard Howard That's a good point because a lot of companies when they 1st approach this maybe aren't thinking along those lines where I mean, and it doesn't have to be something as sophisticated as building a rocket engine, it could just be someone who has. A software or technology that is an Api, connector or something to do with
If, human resources or user interface. The government typically buys the solution they want to purchase the If I was the government and I wanted a human resource Solution My solicitation probably wouldn't be for the company that does the Api interfacing and kind of connecting everything. 23:15 - Richard Howard I want the total solution so that company may have to partner with you. You pick your company, your software business that has that solution, and they can integrate with them.
23:25 - Bhaskar Dutta Wither. 23:25 - Richard Howard And of course, sometimes there's subcontracting requirements for our small businesses that the government puts out. So that's something else, I guess, to keep in mind. 23:33 - Bhaskar Dutta Sure, absolutely. 23:36 - Richard Howard part of Sbir. Typically, on most Sbir s that
I've seen, there's a requirement, or at least a government intent, that technologies have a dual application, dual use If you develop something in the Siver program, a lot of the time, you know, they not only allow but want you to be able to sell that commercially. Have you guys been able to take advantage of the commercial line of revenue in a, I guess in association with some of the Sbi work you've done? 24:07 - Bhaskar Dutta Yes, indeed. So again going back to the space industry, because that's uh, unfort that that's our biggest area. So whenever I talk, I will do multiple references of space. What we're doing with for example some of the development work with nasa so it's you can. These are all dual used technology, so you can use it
for Dod, for maybe in the missiles area, but also in the commercial private space industry. So we do have private space customers, similar propulsion technologies, of course. 24:44 - Bhaskar Dutta The design Mines are different, there are some differences here and there, but the base concept, once the technology is developed, I think you can use it, dual use and that's a big plus point in Sbr programs, 24:59 - Richard Howard And you're in a really cool area too, 25:00 - Bhaskar Dutta you know. 25:01 - Richard Howard That's really interesting. Are you, I mean you must, you're probably on a 1st name basis with Elon right now. Are you guys, you guys
working together? 25:08 - Bhaskar Dutta We do not do any work with Specific. I've been in their headquarters, but we do not. They are not one of our customers, 25:15 - Richard Howard Okay, I just took it. 25:16 - Bhaskar Dutta so they do most of the things in house, so they don't outsource a lot as far as I know anyway. 25:23 - Richard Howard I was just taking a shot in the dock there.
25:23 - Bhaskar Dutta So we do have other private space customers, yeah. 25:29 - Richard Howard Okay, oh no, that's awesome. That's, I mean, it sounds really, really interesting. What's next for you guys? What's on the horizon as far as government work or maybe just, you know, where you think the company is going to be headed in the next ten years.
25:43 - Bhaskar Dutta What we are focusing on, Rick, is large metal part manufacturing. So typically additive manufacturing right now, you know the most Accepted or adapted version is powder bed fusion. It's called make parts that are about maybe thirty forty inches in size. We are targeting with our technology, which is called like Directed Energy Deposition technology. This is a Astm category. So with this process and laser and powdered metal, we are targeting printing large metal parts. So we have printed
some parts for Nasa that are about 10 ft in size. 26:30 - Richard Howard Oh. 26:31 - Bhaskar Dutta you're printing a part that's s taller than, you know, average human being and much smaller, and these are like rocket engine nozzles. So with this big part printing technology, we're trying to push the envelope of additive metal printing. So there are a lot of like space industry components that are very large
and currently, you know, these are forged or cast. We have trouble here right now getting, forging and casting. Some of the supplies chains are affected because of the war in Europe and So there's a lot of supply chain issues, so we're trying to fill in that area and produce some of this. 27:15 - Bhaskar Dutta Casting and forging replacements with our technology cut the lead time, You know, some of the programs we are working on. Lead time is between 14 to 18 months and we are targeting to cut it down to like six, seven months. So you have less than 50 % lead time for some of these large, large parts. At the same time
we are cutting cost of manufacturing so parts in the defense, 27:38 - Richard Howard That's amazing. 27:41 - Bhaskar Dutta you know, Navy programs, some of the Navy programs and there are multiple applications, but we We're targeting more like large metal parts. 27:50 - Richard Howard sure, yeah, extremely interesting. And so let's, let's pivot a little bit here. So that's where we're going. And by the way, I think most people, when I thought additive manufacturing, I was definitely thinking, you know, small, small parts, right? And those are the, you know, I've been through. 28:05 - Bhaskar Dutta That's the most popular today. You, you're
absolutely right. But our parts, I mean, if somebody goes to our website, Dm threed Tech. Com. You will see like a large Rs two five engine nozzle liner for Nasa that we printed. So this is the engine powered mission you know, the Space Launch System. 28:25 - Richard Howard Wow.
28:26 - Bhaskar Dutta So this is like, when you see the Space Launch System, I mean it's a tiny engine at the end, but that engine is about 14 ft tall, the whole engine. And the nozzle liner is ten foot tall, you know, 28:40 - Richard Howard Oh yeah, no one of my. 28:41 - Bhaskar Dutta it's a significantly large piece of metal there.
28:45 - Richard Howard One of my bucket list items is to see one of these space launches in person. I haven't. I haven't managed to do it yet, but I hear it's really interesting. 28:53 - Bhaskar Dutta Neither did I, you know, so like last year. I was in Johnson's Pest Center, so I was touring. I took actually my daughter, she was in a competition there, so they were hosting the competition. So I went in there and I just
walk in and then there's a model of Rs two five engine right there as you walk in and I show my daughter. And this is the part we are printing here at Tm Cd, 29:17 - Richard Howard Oh, 29:18 - Bhaskar Dutta you know, you should see this pictures. 29:19 - Richard Howard wow, that's awesome. 29:21 - Bhaskar Dutta She was very excited. Seeing this, Me was more excited than her. I was.
29:25 - Richard Howard Oh, I bet it sounds like she might be uh, she might be taking on the uh, the family businesss here. She, she had to be uh, 29:32 - Bhaskar Dutta I don't know, 29:33 - Richard Howard engineer or maybe an astronaut or something. 29:36 - Bhaskar Dutta she might go into engineering, but she is doing actually chemistry so in college, so yeah.
29:41 - Richard Howard okay, you, I, I showed, I showed you my ignorance to the different engineering fields and I got schooled a bit when I About halfway through my Air Force career, I switched from flying to acquisitions. So now I had an engineering team that was working with me and my chief of engineer I made a comment about, 29:58 - Bhaskar Dutta Helping? H Yeah. 30:04 - Richard Howard I basically was saying all the engineers were kind the same or had the same education. She's like, no rick, no, it goes. There is a pecking order of engineers and at the bottom you have. I believe he said civil engineers in his mind were kind of at the bottom of the list that he had, but he had chemical engineers way at the top of that list, I remember, and it was a, it was a fun little competition among all the engineers to kind of claim who was the the smartest or the best career. Very cool, okay, So before we go, when we put you on the spot a little here, just curious if you had any, and we're pivoting.
30:46 - Richard Howard To the right here a little Any business books, or any books in general that you'd recommend to the audience to read that either, whether it's to government contracting or not, that you just find interesting and you think would be a good good use of their time. 31:03 - Bhaskar Dutta One of the challenges in government contracting is a couple challenges I would say is one is, you know, the paperwork. So there's a lot of paperwork involved. You got to carefully go through all that and make sure, you know,
you're checking all the right boxes and crossing the right B boxes and all that. The other other thing is the timeline. So while Sbr is a great program, but The timeline is little stretched. So, you know, phase one takes like, I think typically six months and then you have about twelve months to do phase two and then there are the solicitation cycles that you had to go through so.
31:47 - Bhaskar Dutta That's the flip side in my mind in doing Sbr programs. So you have to be cognizant of all of these things before you get into something like this. 32:00 - Richard Howard No, those are, those are words of wisdom for sure, and that's great advice for the audience. You mentioned your website, uh Dm three D tech com for the audience to They want to reach out to you. Is that the best place to
go if they're small businesses or somebody interested in your technology on the government side? 32:17 - Bhaskar Dutta absolutely. Yeah, there's email address and phone number so they can reach out directly there through that to us and we will get right back to. 32:29 - Richard Howard perfect, all right. Well, you guys heard it here 1st us, so we'll put The address the website in the show notes anyone can go in there and click Autumn if listening to this. 32:37 - Bhaskar Dutta Wonderful. 32:39 - Richard Howard Pash Gar. Thank you for coming on the day.
This has been an awesome conversation. Probably one of the most interesting companies that we've talked to, especially considering how deeply you're with the space industry. 32:52 - Bhaskar Dutta Thank you, Rick. I really appreciate this opportunity to talk to you and All the best for your program.
32:58 - Richard Howard Well, thanks again. All right, everyone thanks tuning into this week's Dod Contract Academy with Dm Three Dd. If you want to learn more about selling to the government, head over to do. Dot com where you can check out our academy, our blog page and see some of our free training. And until the next episode,
we'll see you next time. 33:19 - Bhaskar Dutta Thank you. 33:20 - Richard Howard Great, 33:20 - Bhaskar Dutta Bye now. 33:21 - Richard Howard All right, thank you, sir, this was really good. Let me if I can get the how to turn the recording off. Are you still there?