Meet the Team with Research Specialist Ben DiMarco
Our “Meet the Team” Q&A series will feature engaging interviews with the student employees, technical staff, researchers, and faculty partners who fuel the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME). To start, we’d like to introduce Ben DiMarco, a research specialist in the additive manufacturing (AM) group at CDME. DiMarco joined the CDME team approximately nine months ago after spending nine years at Honda R&D Americas, where he held roles in the automotive and aerospace divisions.
As an integral member of CDME’s AM group, DiMarco drives research and industry-sponsored projects forward while growing the 3D printing ecosystem at Ohio State and beyond. DiMarco serves as a manager and mentor to CDME student employees and plans to hire an additional six undergraduate students by the end of his first year. Building a strong network of student employees is a priority for DiMarco, as he hopes to teach those reporting to him about the endless opportunities available in the AM space.
CDME: What excites you most about this new role?
Ben DiMarco: I believe this answer has two parts. Number one, working with the students directly, teaching them the skills that I picked up from industry, and giving them relevant and tangible skills that they can take into their first job. I didn’t really have that as much in my undergrad, so working alongside staff engineers is a unique opportunity for students. The second part has allowed me to research topics that I’m interested in, specifically in metal 3D printing and powder bed fusion (PBF). Our director has allowed us the opportunity to have a very wide runway, so if a topic is interesting to us, we have the flexibility to take it on.
CDME: Before coming to Ohio State, you spent about nine years at Honda R&D. Tell us about your position and that experience.
Ben DiMarco: My first six years at Honda were in automotive and my last three years were in aerospace. It was a great first job out of college because I was given a lot of responsibilities, led small teams, and traveled to Japan and Europe. With all that came project leadership and larger responsibilities. Honestly, if it weren’t for Honda, I don’t think I’d be at the university working. Honda had an Executive MBA Leadership program with the Fisher College of Business in 2018, and it really resurfaced learning for me.
CDME: How does your experience in industry, specifically with Honda, influence your work at CDME?
Ben DiMarco: I started in the aerospace group at Honda in 2018, and it was basically a greenfield for metal additive printing. So, we created an entire research lab for metal additive printing, and I was the lead U.S. staff member of that effort. I purchased over 35 pieces of equipment and started Honda’s metal additive research center in North Carolina. This really piqued my interest if I ever chose to come back to Ohio to work.
CDME: What was your most rewarding project or contribution in any of your other previous roles?
Ben DiMarco: I led a team to Haiti on a mission trip where we built 11 houses. For me, leaving the U.S. and going to a third-world country really made me value what we have here. The first time I went was in 2010 where I joined a team to go, and the second time I went was in 2012 where I actually led a team. Honestly, out of everything I’ve done in my career, it was the most amazing thing. It was both recharging and rewarding at the same time.
CDME: What made CDME the right fit for you?
Ben DiMarco: I always wanted to work with universities and research, but sometimes they couldn’t keep pace with industry. I feel like CDME is a great platform for industry to come to and get research. To me, the heartbeat of CDME is working with the students and leveraging technology for industry. It’s a great place for students to thrive.
CDME: What drives your passion for your research or 3D printing in general?
Ben DiMarco: It’s a balance of creativity and engineering. We’re doing things that people haven’t done before, and we’re making shapes that people haven’t thought of because now a technology exists to make them. Our entire view and way of thinking can now change for the design of a product. For me, it’s really inspiring.
CDME: What do you see as the greatest challenge to working in the AM industry?
Ben DiMarco: The greatest challenge is setting realistic expectations. Sometimes we get very excited about something new, and we just have to be patient and set realistic goals for how quickly we can get something to industry.
CDME: What advice do you have for college students looking to break into the field?
Ben DiMarco: I would encourage them to take advantage of the endless opportunities there are now. They should just try it and see if they like it. Even if they don’t like it, there are so many different types of 3D printing that you can try next. It is also important to keep an open mind and understand that there is not always an answer to every question.
CDME: How did you and your team adjust during the pandemic and continue driving AM innovation?
Ben DiMarco: Personally, I think additive thrived during the pandemic because additive teams can work well independently and share files remotely. 3D printing was sold a lot during the pandemic, especially regarding face shields, masks, and other PPE. Honda, for example, supported the efforts in making ventilators at the beginning of the pandemic.
CDME: Do you have a favorite mentor or someone you have looked up to?
Ben DiMarco: I have one around the same age as me, he was my college roommate, and we check in on each other every week. I have another about 10 years older than me who works at Honda as a test driver. We still talk monthly and have maintained contact for several years. My mother and father also both act as mentors to me because they challenged me to be hands-on while also making sure I tried hard in school.
CDME: What are your interests and hobbies outside of work?
Ben DiMarco: Family is number one, of course (see below!). Also, I raced motocross ATVs for 15 years, and I love anything outdoors. I love boating, skiing, and hiking. Finally, I am working on restoring my dad’s old motorcycle, and I am hoping to have it done by next August. I may even have to 3D print some parts to restore it since it’s such a vintage motorcycle, so some parts can’t be bought anymore.
Ways to Connect with Ben:
by Alexandra Veneck, CDME undergraduate marketing assistant