In our latest careers interview blog, Kate Walker tells us about how she uses 3D printing in her company and about the career path that has led her into this position.

Kate is a product designer who currently works in the medial devices sector as the Founder of ExpHand Prosthetics.

About Your Education

What subject areas/qualifications did you study for?

At school I studied Maths, Further Maths and Physics A levels with Chemistry and Art AS Levels too. I then went to Loughborough University and studied Product Design Engineering and it was during my degree that I came up with the idea for ExpHand Prosthetics and started my business in my final year of university.

Did you have to undertake any further training during your career in order to progress into your current role?

During my final year of university I got heavily involved in the Loughborough Enterprise Network which taught me a lot about how to run a business and allowed me to go along to different conferences and training programs to learn from other entrepreneurs.

About Your Career

Tell us a little bit about your career leading up to your current role?

Since I only finished my degree in July 2019 there hasn’t been a large amount of time to reflect on, however I have now started working for myself full time instead of taking the standard route of applying for a job or starting on a graduate scheme. This has been a great experience and even in just a few months has given me opportunities to travel, speak at conferences and attend networking events with heads of companies from across the world. I can’t imagine any other job where I would have had so many of these experiences in such quick succession and it has also allowed me to become the main driver behind my own career and the direction I want to go in. Running my own company has forced me to be responsible for my own decisions in a way that working for someone else never would have, this has allowed me to quickly develop my skills and learn how to do things in areas I would never have considered in any other role.

About Your Current Role

Briefly describe your current role, what do you do?

I’m currently working full time on my business, ExpHand Prosthetics which involves a mixture of 3D printing, CAD design and business planning, so the role is pretty varied. My business designs and manufactures adjustable 3D printed prosthetics for children and I’ve had the opportunity to work on this from its inception 2 years ago.

What skills do you need for your role?

Creativity and problem solving are probably the two skills I need most often in my job, along with good time management. As we’re a new business we need to be innovative and that means looking at things from a new perspective and breaking away from what’s traditionally done. This of course means moving into completely new territory a lot of the time which is where you really need to be creative in your problem solving because you might not have any previous experiences to draw on.

What do you enjoy about your role?

I love the fact that I get to work on a product that I’ve designed and that the prosthetics we produce will have a direct impact on peoples lives. There are lots of really interesting products that I’ve had the chance to work on during my degree and my time in industry, but working on something that has a purpose and will improve someone’s quality of life is the thing that motivates me more than anything else, there’s nothing quite like it.

Do you have any further career aspirations or plans?

I want to see my business grow to it’s fullest potential and hopefully this will involve expanding into different countries and working with partner organisations to help ensure that as many people as possible across the world have access to prosthetics.

About 3D Printing

What benefits does the use of 3D Printing bring to your role and/or organisation?

Without 3D printing I would have to completely change the design of my prosthetic. Some of the parts can only be made using 3D printing as they involve complex geometries and interlocking and moving parts. Without 3D printing I’d end up doubling the number of parts needed to create a prosthetic hand and the price would also increase dramatically.

On a practical level too, 3D printing speeds up product development as it allows quick prototypes to be manufactured and tested at minimal cost and without needing to use an external supplier.

How do you feel the future of your industry will benefit from 3D Printing?

Currently prosthetics are expensive products that many people can’t afford by themselves. By manufacturing prosthetics using 3D printing, the cost of these can be reduced to make them much more affordable and enable many more people to have access to prosthetics. As 3D printing continues to develop, we should see more and more businesses using 3D printing to manufacture sale quality products rather than for prototypes only.

How can our education system best prepare our young people for job roles of the future in your field?

I think STEAM subjects are really key in giving people the best opportunities for the future. The world is becoming increasingly connected and tech is in just about every job there is. Being able to understand how to use (and fix) this tech can be incredibly useful in any future career and can really set you apart from those around you.

Finally…

What advice would you offer to students that may be interested in pursuing a career in this field?

Go for it! Find something that you really enjoy then look for a job that lets you do that, if you can’t find that job, create it yourself. I’ve loved getting to be creative and use 3D printing to create products that wouldn’t be possible to make.

The CREATE Education Project would like to thank Kate for sharing the details of her career with us. You can learn more about Kate and ExpHand Prosthetics at:

https://www.exphandprosthetics.com

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