By Avery Guest
During his second year as a UC San Diego engineering student, Deepak Atyam was just looking for somewhere to 3D print rocket engines with friends and fellow students, Jesse Lang and Alexander Finch, when he stumbled upon the Moxie Center (now The Basement UCSD). The staff friendly reminded him that to work at the Basement, they would need to create a business case for their rocket engine developments, which eventually evolved into Tri-D Dynamics.
While Atyam was working towards his Bachelor’s in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, the Basement was open to engineering students exclusively, giving him ample opportunity to utilize the space. The team was psyched about printing rocket engines because at the time, this space was very new. The team received funding from NASA to design, build, and test the first 3D printed rocket engine from a university. NASA also wanted Atyam and his team to obtain data from the moving rocket, so they devised ways to learn from real-time data during testing. Eventually they realized NASA ultimately wanted them to build a digital twin for a product used in harsh environments.
Following market research, Atyam and his team identified challenges with scaling in the aerospace industry. So, they pivoted and found another way to utilize the knowledge they developed for NASA by creating smart pipe infrastructure. Hence, Tri-D Dynamics was born.
We connected with Atyam to further discuss Tri-D Dynamics’ mission to upgrade the world’s pipeline infrastructure, as well as his journey as a Triton entrepreneur.
Year Founded: 2015
Key UCSD Players: Deepak Atyam (CEO and Co-Founder), Alexander Finch (President and Co-Founder), Jesse Lang (Vice President and Co-Founder)
The team also includes a business developer and two engineers focused on growing the technology.
Headcount: 4 core members, with 12 on-call engineers
Headquarters: San Francisco, California
After receiving funding from Boost VC, the team was offered office space in San Francisco. At the time of the move, they felt as if there were more resources and connections available to them in San Francisco.
Technology: Tri-D Dynamics’ technology seeks to create more reactive pipes used across the energy, agriculture, automotive and aerospace industries. The startup’s technology allows pipes to respond to the environment they are put in, acting in response to the current situation.
An example that Atyam gave was pipes used in wells. When water needs to move in a different direction, and therefore down another pipe, companies have to pay an employee to go to the job site and put a large metal ball down the pipe. In doing so, the employee is effectively opening a valve to alter the water flow. Bringing an employee to the site costs businesses money and time. Tri-D Dynamics wants to solve this problem with a technology that can be controlled far away from the site.
Atyam said that the growth in this industry is not the pipe itself, but rather the digital ecosystem the pipes can be connected to. Tri-D Dynamics is working towards creating hardware and digital platforms to become more of a utility player. The company’s Bytepipe “is a radical rethinking of what pipe infrastructure can be, adding the capabilities of full electrification and connectivity from end to end”. This pipe has plug and play sensor nodes along the inside of the pipe, which can be used for different sensor types, along with embedded data and power transfer cables. Lastly, there is passing electric current between mechanically connected pipe sections.
“Ultimately, this technology automates pipes, giving businesses a real-time analysis of what is happening on site, while also allowing it to automate employees to open and close valves at the click of a button,” Atyam said.
Tri-D Dynamics’ technology is unique because it solves the uncertainty that comes with the lengthy pipes used by companies across the globe.
“We are bringing this hardware to the industrial industry, which has been rather reluctant to incorporate electronics into its pipelines,” Atyam said.
Market Potential: The global Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) market was valued at $21.8 billion USD in 2020 and is expected to reach $41 billion USD by the end of 2026, growing at a CAGR of 9.4% during 2021-2026 according to MarketWatch.
According to Research and Markets, there were 145,353 miles of pipelines planned and under-construction in the beginning of 2019. This demonstrates that the pipeline market is rapidly growing, giving Tri-D Dynamics ample pipes to automate, Atyam said.
Inspiration: Atyam and his team were inspired by the support from NASA, which encouraged them to create a technology that allowed for real-time data analysis. While they ended up moving away from the aerospace industry, the team’s original inspiration, market research and customer discovery indicated opportunity for this technology in the energy industry. Atyam said that with the company’s “advanced manufacturing background, we could fuse electronics with (pipes) in harsh environments, creating digital twins.We saw this as the future for the energy industry and wanted to focus our efforts on creating a technology that would have a multi-generational impact on the world.”.
Pivots: Atyam found that the team’s biggest challenge was also their biggest opportunity. While they were all passionate about building rocket engines, they knew there wasn’t enough market opportunity in that space. However, from here, they took their real-time data analytics and applied it to pipes, which are used in the larger industrial space.
Funding: Atyam said much of Tri-D Dynamics’ foundation can be attributed to the help of the Basement, which gave the team access to work space and 3D printing technology, which has been crucial to their growth. Recently, the startup received $1 million from San Mateo, Calif.-based Boost VC, and additional funding from a super angel in Los Angeles.
Mentors: Atyam thanks Ebonee Williams, who was the Executive Director of the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center and now currently serves as the Director of Virtual Experience and Peer Engagement Initiatives at UCSD.
“She supported the whole Tri-D Dynamic team during our undergraduate careers at UCSD,” he said, adding that many others he met through the Moxie Center (Jay Kunin), Basement (Gloria Negrete), and Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla helped him along his journey.
On the Horizon: Atyam says that Tri D-Dynamics is planning to compete for government grants in addition to seeking corporate venture financing. The team is currently searching for partners in their next funding round in hopes of raising capital to further develop their products.
“This technology was initially perceived as impossible to build, but after proving that wrong, we can’t wait to change the energy industry,” Atyam said.
San Diego Tech Ecosystem: Atyam and his team hope to return to the growing San Diego startup space. He said they felt disconnected from the local startup community as college students because they weren’t well equipped with the tools necessary to connect to the proper people.
“While we were in college, we didn’t know a lot of people in the space; we were limited by the connections we had to the community,” Atyam said.
Today, Atyam is “super excited” that the San Diego ecosystem has continued to grow, and even said that “this newsletter has brought awareness to the growing diverse tech space in San Diego.”
Tacos: Taco Stand in La Jolla
Keep up with Tri-D Dynamics through the company’s website and LinkedIn.
Editor’s Note: TritonTech is an original series on UC San Diego created by Fresh Brewed Tech that showcases the innovative ideas born in the halls of academia that are making a great impact on our ecosystem and beyond.