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Interview with N. Zherebtsov - developer of construction 3D-printer

Interview with N. Zherebtsov - developer of construction 3D-printer

Apis Cor has developed the first mobile 3D printer of the circular type, which helped the team, in collaboration with an American company, win a NASA competition and build a prototype of a Martian home completely without human intervention. We talked with the leading design-engineer of Apis Cor Nikita Zherebtsov about his life and professional path from drift and Harley-Davidson to construction and 3D-printing, about the purpose of the engineer and what the next industrial era will be.

- Nikita, at what age did your love for technology overtake you?

- "It came to me in my childhood. My favorite toys were a Soviet metal constructor and tools in my grandfather's workshop. As my parents told me, even at an early age I had a craving to disassemble to the smallest detail any household items. I managed to disassemble alarm clocks, radios, and anything else I could get my hands on."

- Apparently, the craving didn't go away with age…

- "Yes, at school I was attracted to the exact Sciences: mathematics, geometry. And with the advent of physics, I became even more interested in such disciplines."

- Is that why your interests left the school bench to the real world?

- "At that time, I have already understood the design of the bike, and later – with the advent of the first scooter – I took it apart and assemble it back because of an obsessive wish to learn the device and how all the mechanisms work. After school, I went to the University to study physics. In parallel with studies, I worked part-time in various auto and motorcycle workshops. At that time, I have not care about salary or status, I basically have done it only for the sake of satisfying my own craving for knowledge. At that time, I have changed my work quite often, without staying for a long time in one workshop. I left as soon as there was a sense of routine and limited access to new knowledge."

- What about higher education? Did it give you more than the school one?

- "In the third year of study at the University, I realized that the knowledge they give me is not enough, and I decided to develop through practice and left studying at the University. At that time, I have already had my own projects, and working in workshops allowed me to "support my pants" and finance my ideas. In those days in Irkutsk in Russia, my hometown, was the birthplace of the drift. In addition to the beautiful show, it was a completely new culture that included a society of motorists, mechanics, drivers, and other auto industry professionals."

- In addition, drift is an industry with a lot of specific nuances in the technical part of the car…

- "Exactly. I was attracted by its newness and complexity. It was a completely new industry, with no specialists or technical documentation, and only clippings from magazines with no details about the automotive industry. Everything had to be learned in practice. First of all, it was necessary to cope with the car with the factory settings. We were placing cones on the platform and learning how to keep the car's trajectory in the drift. Only by focusing on our own feelings we understood what technical characteristics we needed to achieve from vehicle."

- Can you give a concrete example?

- "For example, in order to avoid skidding initiation energy going into the suspension, it was necessary to put hard shock absorbers and replace rubber silent blocks with polyurethane or hinges. To increase the eversion of the wheels, it was necessary to alter the levers, change the geometry of the hub and change the geometry of the steering rack. There was an urgent need to upgrade the engine cooling system, as in the drift engine runs at high speeds, and this is fraught with overheating. It was necessary to modify the differential and much more. Technical characteristics of cars were improving, our skill in this industry was growing and count of usual parking lots and platforms was already becoming insufficiently, and the special route for occupations by a drift did not exist."

- What was the forerunner of the drift era in your life?

- "I decided to study a new industry for myself – motorcycles. I got really into it and fell in love with the Harley-Davidson motorcycle brand. I was delighted with the company's approach to motorcycle design, as I had previously worked with the offspring of Japanese engineering, and it turned out that they are radically different. There is something authentic in American technology, but it attracts with its reliable and reasonable solutions. I managed to work in several motorcycle workshops, dealing with Harley-Davidson equipment, and at this time I received an offer to work in a Harley-Davidson dealership."

- You agreed, of course?

- "Certainly. Moreover, they needed not just a technical specialist, but a person who can find an individual approach to each client, since Harley-Davidson motorcycles are, in fact, a constructor, and the ability to choose the right configuration for each client is a very important point when selecting a motorcycle."

- What did you get from working for a company with such a rich history?

- "Understanding how the manufacturer can quickly respond to the needs of society and the market at a certain time. The company was founded in 1903 and has gone through more than one crisis in its history and each time found technical and managerial solutions to stay afloat, but it has never changed its traditions and principles. For me, it was a very valuable experience, as I was able to learn cultural characteristics, understand the most important processes of creation and production of equipment on a global scale. While still working at Harley-Davidson, I began to be interested in design and modeling methods, CAD programs, and began to study independently. I started studying theoretical mechanics, started reading books on mechanical engineering, studied a lot of technical literature and documentation, and I had a desire to try myself not only as a specialist in maintenance of equipment, but also as a creative engineer.

- That's why you worked in parallel with the work at Harley-Davidson?

- "Yes, I did not stop implementing my own projects, such as the BMW 3 series E46. I built this car for aesthetics. It was a project in the style of a lowrider with incredibly low ground clearance and large wheels with air suspension. There was also a project to build a drift-trike from scratch. It is a three-wheeled vehicle based on a bicycle frame, with a motor and wheels from a racing car. The result is a very compact vehicle for a fun pastime. It easily goes into a power skid and is able to reach speeds of up to 60 km / h."

- How old were you then?

- "It turns out that by the age of 25 I have already had experience of my own projects and organization of business, but I had a feeling that I was towing on the spot. Further prospects are not obvious, and the desire to develop and study this world is not satisfied. As a result, I decided on one of the adventures in my life and went to Moscow to search for projects where I can be useful with my skills and abilities to gain new knowledge and experience.."

- And that time you received an offer to work at Apis Cor, right ?

- "Yes. Initially, I was hired as a mechanical engineer, but later took the position of lead engineer and was responsible for the layout and assembly of the main components of the 3D-printer, and not only controlled and organized the design part, but also engaged in the organization of production. Now I'm overseeing the development of a new system for preparing and feeding the mixture for the printer. In the near future, we are planning the first tests of the system and subsequent preparation for serial production."

- How is the Apis Cor project fundamentally different from your previous jobs?

- "The Apis Cor project gave me a new understanding of self-development. Before, when I was working on my projects or working in companies, I tried to make the most of them for my own development and knowledge. And as soon as I knew the maximum and saw the limit ahead, I left and looked for something more. Here everything turned out to the opposite, now I am developing not BECAUSE of this project, but FOR its implementation. In other words, my growth has no boundaries here, and the development of the entire company depends directly on my growth."

- What do you see your purpose as a person and as an engineer? Do you think that an engineer should serve to simplify people's lives with his developments?

- "I see my mission as an engineer in that my experience and my work can become an additional tool for future generations of engineers who may face the same challenges that I face in my work. I believe that we need to share our experience, research and discoveries, so that the development of technology does not stop. I believe that humanity uses all technology for its own good. Of course, in history there are facts of the use of technology to harm, but this is for reasons of unconsciousness of the consequences and stupidity."

- Do you proud of your developments and the fact that you are working on a new word in construction?

- "Of course, I am proud that my work can change not only the everyday life of every person on the planet, but also the whole industry, the direction of the market. The construction sector is one of the most important today, as traditional construction methods do not keep up with the growing demand for new housing. Today, approximately 330 million families in the world need their own housing. We are developing a new way to quickly and efficiently erect buildings which will help solve the problem of housing lack on the planet. Our equipment can build in hard-to-reach places, quickly rebuild homes after natural disasters, which will help people who still live in shacks and barracks to find real homes. Also, our work on improving the systems and principles of construction on Earth will form the basis of technology for the development and colonization of other planets."

- If we are not talking about construction, what areas can change our lives in the near future?

- "Humanity has learned to get energy, starting with the burning of minerals, ending with nuclear energy and renewable energy of the sun, wind and water. And the ways of extracting this energy are being improved. I think that the qualitative breakthrough in the future will not be a way to get energy, but a way to store it compactly and efficiently. I believe that this technology will not take long to wait, because now many companies are already working on a new way to create more capacious batteries. With the new technology, exoskeletons, implantation, transport, the Internet of Things, industry and many other things will get a big boost in development, which is currently very limited due to too bulky batteries. I think that we are achieving this speed of development thanks to working together in all breakthrough areas at the same time."

- And however, who is an engineer? In your opinion.

- "The concept of an engineer varies in historical terms, but there has always been one unchanging pattern: an engineer is a Creator, a person who challenges the nature of things, everyday life and mode of life (thinks). First of all, it is a dreamer who tries to make his fantasies come true. Engineering is only a demonstration of such human qualities as the desire to change and improve everything around you. To become an engineer, it is not enough just to study mathematics, geometry and physics, you need to understand the physics of things and processes, have a good imagination and be able to go beyond science for finding new solutions. You should always be up to date with the latest technologies, communicate with the professionals of your industry and never stop in your development.

Interview with N. Zherebtsov - developer of construction 3D-printer

Drift-trike project
Drift-trike project

BMW 3 E46 Air Suspension project
BMW 3 E46 Air Suspension project

At the printing project in Dubai, UAE. Apis Cor.
At the printing project in Dubai, UAE. Apis Cor.

Interview with N. Zherebtsov - developer of construction 3D-printer

Interview with N. Zherebtsov - developer of construction 3D-printer

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