Carlsbad, Calif. — Additive manufacturing specialist Forecast 3D plans to open another U.S. location, probably in the Midwest, during the first quarter of 2019.
The new site will focus on the automotive market producing prototype parts and other components for low-volume vehicles and spare parts, said Ken Burns, Forecast 3D technical sales director.
Meanwhile, in its current Carlsbad neighborhood, Forecast 3D took occupancy in September of a third building with 11,000 square feet of leased space.
After retrofitting, "we expect to have the building fully operational in mid-November" for direct-metal selective laser sintering, computer-numerical-control machining and fused deposition modeling. Burns said.
Nearby, Forecast 3D owns its headquarters building of 28,000 square feet and uses much of the space for production of its legacy ProCast RTV urethane castings. The proprietary ProCast process utilizes stereolithography, FDM or PolyJet master-model patterns to make cast urethane parts, a core of the business since its 1994 start.
In 2016, Forecast 3D leased an adjacent 21,000-square-foot structure that is now dedicated as a manufacturing center running only 3D Multi-Jet Fusion printing equipment from HP Inc., Burns said in the interview at the plant.
During 2018, Forecast 3D is investing about $6 million for equipment in what it characterizes as the current "era of digital manufacturing."
That includes doubling the volume of MJF printers.
Burns said six new MJF machines went into operation in May, and another six MJF units ramped up in September alongside the existing dozen printers. Those are among the 44 individual 3D printers at Forecast 3D.
Near the 24 HP MJF machines are 72 HP build units.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP contends that its 3D printing technology is disrupting manufacturing for low-volume jobs. Forecast 3D envisions using the HP MJF equipment to "launch into high-volume applications," Burns said.
In addition to the HP presence, Forecast 3D uses additive production equipment from Stratasys Ltd. of Eden Prairie, Minn., and Rehovot, Israel; 3D Systems Inc. of Rock Hill, S.C.; and SLM Solutions Group AG of Lübeck, Germany.
CNC equipment comes from Fadal Machining Centers LLC of Chatsworth, Calif.; Haas Automation Inc. of Oxnard, Calif.; and C.R. Onsrud Inc. of Troutman, N.C.
Forecast 3D is "technology agnostic," Burns said.
Forecast 3D's service bureau competitors include Stratasys' direct manufacturing business, 3D Systems' custom-parts lines and Maple Plain, Minn.-based Proto Labs Inc.'s quick-turn specialties.
Among its operations, Forecast 3D has an injection molding subsidiary, Reva Plastics Inc., that it started about 10 years ago to serve U.S. customers with complexity and part-size requirements outside its main additive manufacturing processes.
Ray Yeh, Reva Plastics project manager, serves as a Carlsbad-based liaison with contract plastics processors in Shenzhen, China, and Tijuana, Mexico. Yeh's knowledge of the Mandarin language helps with his China mission.
Reva Plastics only supplies customers in the United States, Burns said. The subsidiary's annual sales exceed $2 million and are accounted for separately from those of Forecast.
Reva Plastics focuses on the consumer electronics, telecommunications, health care, media, defense and automotive markets.
On Oct. 5, Forecast 3D hosted a Manufacturing Day open house in Carlsbad, offered presentations and showed off its additional space and equipment during plant tours.
Of this year's 101 attendees, 23 were students from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.; Mira Costa College and its Technology Center Institute in Carlsbad; and the Gemological Institute of America, also in Carlsbad.
John Briden, senior research and development manager for HP's product design, immersive computing and future home projects, described how MJF printing "eliminates issues inherent to injection molding" during the event.
Those molding-related issues were described as mold build, press set up, resin waste and tool removal, storage and maintenance. In addition, multiple tooling constraints impact part geometry and cosmetics, the manager said.
"MJF has none of these issues," Briden said. "MJF is a thermal process without [need for] a metal tool."
Brothers Corey and Donovan Weber co-founded Carlsbad-based Product Slingshot Inc. doing business as Forecast 3D. The business employs about 150 and projects 2018 sales will exceed $20 million after topping $14 million in 2017. Corey Weber is CEO, and Donovan Weber is chief operating officer.