Growing 3D printing in North America

Through its novel partnership concept, designfusion is enabling companies like Stratagen3d of Kelowna, BC to start – and grow – its business

Right now as you read this, headbands for protective face shields are being 3D printed on the production floor at Strategen3d.

Printing of these headbands is part of a Covid-19 project organized by Health Canada and 3Dprinter-maker HP to protect frontline Canadian healthcare workers.

“We literally started printing the headbands moments after we received the CAD file, ”says Collin Sawatzky, Strategen3D founder and CEO. “It’s been a pretty Herculean effort to start mass production of Canadian-made face shields, and 3D printing has made it possible.”

What has made Stratagen3d’s success possible is the sector leadership of designfusion.

Partnership expands services

Simply put, designfusion partners with manufacturers like Stratagen3d to provide them with a straightforward additional income stream (custom orders) and much more ongoing business (through expanded service offerings).

Trevor Johnstone, designfusion’s director of additive manufacturing, says it’s a model that’s designed to ensure everyone’s success, customers, partners and his firm alike. It’s a simple but ingenious concept that’s growing the number of companies in North America reaping the benefits of 3D printing.

Firstly,Stratagen3d is part of designfusion’s customer 3D printer brokerage, which meansStratagen3d fulfills orders for designfusion customers. “It was very important to have that income as we established ourselves and it’s still important, ”Sawatzky explains. “It’s a level of security and makes the ROI on our HP printer all the faster. We are excited to bring our unique offerings to Western Canada.

Designfusion takes orders from customers and matches them to the most suited partner, and sees that orders are filled and paid for, at a great price and with the fastest turnaround and highest quality on the market. “For those in our brokerage, we look after all the business stuff, all the marketing and sales,” says Johnstone. “They get the digital file, and all they have to do is print and ship the order.”

Stratagen3d’s customers – and the customers at all brokerage partners – also have access as needed to designfusion’s full design and engineering services. “We take away every roadblock for our partners,” explains Johnstone. “Our objective is to remove the barriers to entry for our customers and their clients, whether that’s an entrepreneur with a product idea but no design or manufacturing capacity or a service provider looking to see quicker return on their equipment investment. HP Jet Fusion technology, with its ability to rapidly produce high-quality parts in larger volumes, underpins our approach.”

Most of Stratagen3d’s demand is for items printed in recyclable PA12 nylon plastic, but it can also use its HP JetFusion 5200 to print items in a wide range of plastic and plastic composites. These materials, PA11 (high tensile strength), PA12 with glass bead (high stiffness) and BASF's Ultrasint TPU (high flexibility).

With designfusion’s expanded network, Stratagen3dcan also fulfill orders in a wider array of plastic composites, as well as metal and metal composites.

Hot markets

Stratagen3dand the other companies in designfusion’s printer brokerage are filling in creasing demand for 3D printing from customers in health care, consumer goods, sports equipment and more. “The unique capabilities of 3D printing open up design and manufacturing capabilities that would not be possible using other technologies,” says Sawatzky. “Already, a diverse array of companies are marketing products that have been printed on the Jet Fusion printers. People are generally not yet aware that this includes everything from medical devices, prosthetics, orthotics and dental aligners through to automotive components in the cars we are driving around right now.”

In terms of cost, Sawatzky explains that parts printed in PA12 are competitive with injection molding without the investment in expensive tooling and long lead times. This is a surprise to some of his new customers who thought their only option was to have items made by injection mold, sometimes offshore. Instead, they can pay the same or a lower cost for high-quality items, much faster shipping and the assurance of working with a trusted North America supply chain partner. They can also order on demand and avoid holding inventory of certain items.

Prototyping and design  

Other customers come to Stratagen3d and other brokerage partners because they want to take advantage of quick and easy prototyping. Indeed, Sawatzky believes prototyping is the superpower of digital manufacturing.

“Stratagen3dcan receive a CAD file for a prototype part and print it the next day, which cuts product development time and costs to a fraction of what they are with traditional means,” he says. “There’s a lot of room to grow in the prototyping space, and while some projects involve items that could be made in other ways, we have other projects where 3D printing is making it possible to create something entirely new. And from prototyping, we stay with our clients all the way to mass production.”

Through designfusion, Stratagen3d and its peers also offer the full suite of engineering and design services.

Parts integration, for example, involves taking an item with six or eight parts and designing it so that it’s now three, two or even a single part. “Depending on your part geometry and application, our team can also optimize the topology of your design,” says Johnstone, “or integrate hollowing or latticing to trim weight and reduce costs.”  

The power of partnership

Because of designfusion’ sleadership in creating a 3D printing brokerage, manufacturers who couldn’t quite justify the purchase of a 3D printer can now afford one.

“For every company we talk to that’s serious about additive manufacturing and has the volume that makes buying a printer a smart investment, we talk to 15 who are also serious about it but don’t quite have the volume,” explains Johnstone.

“Rather than companies having to wait until they’ve reached a given order volume level, we offer a partner solution that makes it possible right now,” he says. “This is working well for Stratagen3d and our other printing partners – and we are interested in more partnerships.”

“We are very pleased to be enabling more manufacturers to realize the benefits of digital manufacturing sooner rather than later, allowing them to remain competitive on the world manufacturing stage.”

 

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