Playing Matchmaker With 3D Printing Service Bureaus
By Bill Koenig
3Discovered, a two-year-old company, is acting as a matchmaker between clients and 3D printing service bureaus.
One of the company’s clients is Advanced Technology Services Inc. (Peoria, IL). ATS performs maintenance work for production machines at factories. Its customers are spread throughout the United States and extend into Mexico and the United Kingdom.
“A maintenance guy’s world is dependent on part availability,” said Mike Waltrip, vice president of industrial parts services for ATS.
The problem is that some ATS customers operate old machines “with a lot of obsolete components,” Waltrip said. “A cap or end cover on a motor may be obsolete.”
ATS began meeting with representatives of 3Discovered (Chicago) in March. 3Discovered said additive manufacturing was an alternative to traditional machine shops, capable of providing replacement parts quicker.
3Discovered could make digital designs of parts. It also had developed a network of 22 service bureaus that could bid on work to produce the replacement components. ATS would be able to select the service bureau from bids submitted. Depending on component complexity, a replacement part could be obtained in one to two weeks, and often less than a week.
As a result, ATS became 3Discovered’s second customer. “We knew the real capabilities,” Waltrip said. “We were able to get our hands on 3D printed parts. We were able to see the quality of the parts. They met our expectations and we decided to move forward.”
ATS has uploaded designs for about 50 parts to 3Discovered and has set a goal of 200 by the end of 2016.
“We didn’t understand the full capabilities of the additive manufacturing technology,” Waltrip said. “3Discovered has educated us.”
3Discovered is moving to expand.
“We’re a startup,” said Peer Munck, CEO and co-founder of 3Discovered. “The product is working. We’ve gone from product development into the sales and marketing phase.”
Munck said another 3Discovered’s customer retrofits cruise ships, but declined to discuss that work in detail.
3Discovered also can work with customers on part designs, Munck said. “That’s an additional skill. This is a technological revolution that’s not led by Silicon Valley.”
3Discovered also is seeking additional financing. Shareholders include Ocean Tomo, which calls itself an “intellectual capital merchant banc” firm; Liberty Advisor Group, a consulting firm; and capital venture firm Accelerate-IT Ventures.
The Chicago company also wants to expand into larger production volume work, Munck said.
3Discovered also wants to add to its current network of service bureaus, according to the CEO.
Currently, the service bureaus cover four types of additive manufacturing: Fusion Deposit Modeling for plastics; Stereolithography for photo sensitive plastics and resins; Selective Laser Sintering for metals and polymers; and Binder Jet for metals and alloys.
Published Date : 12/11/2015