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MSE Colloquium: Joseph DeSimone (Carbon, Inc.)

Joseph DeSimone
January 17, 2020 - 3:00pm
McCullough 115

Digital Light Synthesis to Drive Additive Manufacturing: Convergence of Hardware, Software, and Molecular Science

Joseph M. DeSimone

Carbon, Inc., Redwood City, California Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University


In many ways, manufacturing processes define what’s possible in society. Opportunities to make things that can improve the health and well being of society are central to our interests to develop scalable methods that can make complex structures more economically than in the past. This lecture will describe a new advance in additive manufacturing (AM), referred to as Digital Light Synthesis (DLS), which is rapid, uses materials that have the requisite properties to yield final parts, and is economically competitive. Our approach promises to advance the AM industry beyond basic prototyping, which is what 3D printing has primarily been limited to, to truly enable the manufacture of polymeric parts without molds. DLS holds the potential to truly change how polymeric products are designed, engineered, made and delivered.

DLS harnesses light and oxygen to continuously grow objects from a pool of resin instead of printing them layer-by-layer. DLS capitalizes on the fundamental principle of oxygen inhibited photopolymerization to generate a continual liquid-interface of uncured resin between the growing part and the exposure window allowing for resin renewal at the build interface. The DLS technology raises the state-of-the-art in additive manufacturing in three ways:

  • GAME-CHANGING SPEED: 25-100 times faster than conventional 3D printing
  • COMMERCIAL QUALITY: produces objects whose mechanical properties are intrinsically isotropic and independent of print orientation
  • MATERIAL CHOICE: enables a broad range of polymeric materials

The combination of performance and speed has enabled many important use cases to emerge including large scale manufacture of running shoes by Adidas (FutureCraft 4D); new high performance, mass-customized liners for football helmets that raises the bar for head protection; the world’s first FDA-approved dentures and other dental products; and numerous parts in the automotive, consumer electronics, aerospace and other medical fields.


Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone co-founded Carbon in 2013 and served as the company’s CEO until being named Executive Chairman in 2019. As CEO, Joe grew Carbon from a small team of scientists and engineers into 500-person global company valued at almost $2.5 billion that is defining the digital revolution in manufacturing. Previously, as a professor at the University of North Carolina for over 20 years before launching Carbon, Joe made scientific breakthroughs in areas including green chemistry, medical devices, and nanotechnology, also co-founding several companies based on his research. When Joe took on 3D printing, he brought together insights from diverse fields to co-invent the core technology that now drives the Carbon Digital Manufacturing Platform. Powered by Digital Light Synthesis™ (DLS™) technology, the Carbon Platform is enabling companies to break free of traditional polymer manufacturing methods to advance product innovation across numerous industries. Under Joe’s leadership, the company also pioneered the world’s first subscription business model for a piece of manufacturing hardware, giving Carbon unprecedented visibility into future revenue, strong partnerships with its customers and enabling customers to be future-proofed from obsolescence. In recognition of his entrepreneurial success at Carbon, Joe was recently recognized as EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 National Overall winner and will represent the USA in world competition in Monaco in June 2019. In 2020, Chemical & Engineering News named Carbon their Company of the Year.

Joe grew up in the Philadelphia area and studied chemistry at Ursinus College and went on to earn his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in 1990, joining the faculty at UNC that same year. He quickly achieved international recognition as a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur, earning major accolades including the U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award and the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. In 2016 President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor in the U.S. for achievement and leadership in advancing technological progress.

At UNC, Joe built a strong culture in his research group centered on the notion that diversity is a fundamental tenet of innovation. He mentored 80 students through Ph.D. completion, half of whom are women and other members of underrepresented groups in STEM. He credits much of his laboratory’s success to this approach, frequently emphasizing how both human and disciplinary diversity accelerate progress in team problem-solving. Joe brought this perspective to Carbon as well and considers it crucial for Carbon’s position as the world’s leading digital manufacturing company. 

An author of over 350 scientific publications (with over 39,000 citations to his work as measured by Google Scholar in September of 2019 and a Hirsch Index “h-index”=94), he is a named inventor on nearly 200 issued patents, Joe maintains academic appointments at both UNC and North Carolina State University. He is one of only roughly 20 individuals elected to all three U.S. National Academies—the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering. Joe currently resides in Monte Sereno, California with his wife of 30 years, Suzanne. They have two children and two grandchildren.

This event belongs to the following series