International Women's Day interview: Kayleigh Porter, HRL Laboratories

Kayleigh Porter, Ceramic 3D Printing Development Engineer, HRL Laboratories.In honour of International Women’s day, Ceramics Expo spoke to some of our conference speakers about what inspired them to enter their chosen industry, why gender diversity is important and their advice for women pursuing similar roles. In this interview we talked to Kayleigh Porter, Ceramic 3D Printing Development Engineer, HRL Laboratories.

Kayleigh Porter has eight years experience developing materials and processes for ceramic stereolithography and has worked on applications including investment casting cores, medical, dental, and high-temperature applications.

HRL LabsShe has developed entire processes including material, print optimization, part integrity, and final properties. Kayleigh received her Bachelor’s degree in Ceramic Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2010.

Tell us about your role as a Ceramic 3D printing development engineer. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

I manage the Ceramic 3D printing lab at HRL Laboratories, a research & development company co-owned by Boeing and GM. This involves everything from safety, managing workflow, and program development. Our work primarily focuses on cutting-edge material development. Currently we are focusing development in ceramic materials for UV curable systems. With every new ceramic material or base formulation change come new challenges with curing, dispersion, resolution, and build-ability in the printer. Overcoming these challenges requires a lot of critical thinking and crazy ideas. I work with and guide our group to achieve our program goals.


What inspired you to pursue a career in the Ceramic 3D Printing field?

I actually have a unique backstory about my entry into this field. I earned a BFA in Ceramics at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2010, but have been working as an engineer for the past eight and a half years. During school, I became very interested in the technical side of ceramics and found myself mixing hundreds of glazes and clay bodies to fire in various atmospheres. I taught myself through genuine intellectual curiosity and trial and error. After college, I found a technical position at a small R&D company whose focus was in ceramic 3D printing. Working these projects satisfied my technical and creative mind while maintaining my passion for ceramic materials. We were constantly exploring new materials, building new geometries, and fine-tuning or inventing new processes. Over my career I’ve developed skill sets that are not yet taught in school. HRL Laboratories recognized my potential and offered me a position in 2017. I’m very passionate and fully intend to follow this career to the end by continuing to develop ceramic 3d printing and disrupt traditional manufacturing methods.


Why is gender diversity in the manufacturing sector important?

Gender diversity is important in all sectors. However, it’s even more important that women have the choice to work in any field that they may desire. If someone is motivated and interested in working in manufacturing, that person should be able to achieve that goal no matter their gender or gender affiliation.


What are the main barriers for women seeking to enter manufacturing roles?

There is no specific set of standards or certifications that allow immediate entrance into manufacturing. You are only able to represent yourself as an individual. Which means you are relying on the perspective of others and the relative competition. If the hiring manager has an outdated perspective on women in the workforce, a woman will be affected, but probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway.


Is there any advice you would give to women looking to pursue a career in the ceramics industry?

I think if you are passionate about pursuing any career, there will be nothing stopping you from achieving that goal. I mean, I’m an artist self-trained engineer and I’m highly passionate and effective at my job. 


Do you think the manufacturing sector does enough to attract, recruit, and retain female talent?

Any job should create a pleasant, challenging, and rewarding work environment that would attract people regardless of sex. When working in a male-dominated field, it is most important for women to feel respected and that their opinions are heard.


What are you most looking forward to learning more about at Ceramics Expo 2019?

I’m always interested in finding out which new companies are exploring ceramic 3D printing and any new technologies that are being released. Additionally, I look forward to new networking opportunities and catching up with my friends in the industry.

Hear Kayleigh speak at the Ceramics Expo Conference on the 'Examining Advances in Additive Manufacturing Techniques and Materials' session at 9:30am, Wednesday May 1, 2019.