A new company in Akron wants to bring 3-D printing to the region in a big way.
Additive Engineering Solutions has been operating as a consulting firm since August 2015 but is getting ready to switch gears to production with the addition of a Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine from Cincinnati Inc. The machine is probably best known for printing a drivable car at the International Manufacturing Technology Show back in 2014, said Austin Schmidt, partner and president of Additive Engineering Solutions.
It's much larger, and faster, than any 3-D printers on the market, Schmidt said. And since most of the BAAM machines on the market aren't easily accessible to companies, Schmidt said he saw an opportunity for a contract manufacturer. The focus at Additive Engineering Solutions will be 3-D printing tools and molds for different industries, said Andrew Bader, one of the partners who's overseeing business development.
Additive Engineering Solutions really got its start in the summer of 2015, when Schmidt and Bader met at a young professionals event. Schmidt was still working in additive manufacturing at Caterpillar, and Bader invited him to do a presentation at OGS Industries, his family's Akron-based metal stamping and fabrication company. OGS immediately found an application for 3D printing in its shop, and Bader thought similar companies in the region could use the same kind of information. The two filed the paperwork to start Additive Engineering Solutions as a consulting business in August 2015. But when Schmidt learned about the BAAM printer, the two decided to look into it.
That wasn't always the goal for Additive Engineering Solutions. In fact, when the company got started, the goal was explicitly "to not buy a printer," Schmidt said. Additive manufacturing is a competitive market, he said, and it's difficult to stand out. But the opportunity to have "first mover advantage" was very attractive, Bader said.
The two pitched the idea to Tom, Bader's uncle, and John, his father, who are, along with Bader and Schmidt, partners in the business. After Schmidt, Bader and his uncle visited Cincinnati Inc., the manufacturer of the machine, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which developed the technology, in May, the decision was basically made.
The company placed the order for the machine in early July. In September, Schmidt began working at Additive Engineering Solutions full-time and started setting up the company's supply chain, customers and jobs.
Additive Engineering Solutions' BAAM machine is the 11th one the company has sold, and the first at a service bureau, said Rick Neff, BAAM sales manager for Cincinnati Inc. The others are in universities, labs or large companies, he said, with the latter using the machines for their own purposes.
Neff said typical 3-D printers can print parts that fit in a shoebox. BAAM can print parts that are 5 1/2 feet wide, 13 feet long and 6 feet tall.
And having one of their machines at a company like Additive Engineering Solutions will be a good thing for Cincinnati, Neff said. The company gets "lots and lots of people" calling it to print parts, he said, a service it will perform but not its main purpose.
That interest demonstrated a need to Bader.
"We kind of had these pre-established sales pipelines," he said.
Bader said there are already a few jobs lined up, though the company declined to name any specific customers. Additive Engineering Solutions has also been busy setting up its new facility at 990 Evans Ave. in Akron, which it is renting from OGS. Total startup costs, including the BAAM machine and supporting equipment like a 5-axis CNC router, are about $1.5 million, Schmidt said.
Additive Engineering Solutions is a spinoff of OGS, but the new company is using the more established one for functions like human resources and facility maintenance, Bader said. That's allowing Additive Engineering Solutions to run very lean. Officially, the only employee outside of Bader (who is also still working at OGS) and Schmidt is senior process engineer Clark Patterson. Tom Bader is serving as chief financial officer when needed.
The BAAM machine is expected to arrive near the end of December. Schmidt and Patterson have been traveling to Cincinnati Inc. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to make sure they're comfortable running the machine.
"Our goal is when it drops, we're ready to go," Schmidt said.
Tim Fahey, vice president of industry and innovation at Team NEO, said Additive Engineering Solutions' addition of the BAAM machine will give the company a "unique ability," as 3-D printed parts are usually limited in size. It also adds another additive manufacturing capability to Northeast Ohio and enhances the region's reputation as a 3D printing hub.
Richard Lonardo, advanced manufacturing program manager at the Youngstown Business Incubator, said the company's focus on large-format tooling in particular will give it a unique asset. There's a lot of tool manufacturing in the state, and people are looking for ways to make those tools faster and more complex.
"We think they're going to be a big hit," Lonardo said.