It has been said that ‘necessity is the mother of all inventions’. This statement rings true for an Idaho-based product design and engineering studio. Slant Concepts, a robotics producer, has spun off their 3D printing arm to create Slant 3D, a high volume-printing farm, capable of printing thousands of complex, unique parts 24/7.
Slant 3D is unique in that it was never meant to be a business for external use. Slant Concepts has previously designed and built their own 3D printers for use in making complex robotic parts. After realizing how beneficial this technology has been in the robotics world, Slant Concepts saw great opportunity to scale their printers for use in the marketplace. Gabe Bentz, Founder and President of Slant Concepts, quickly realized that their 3D printing capabilities could be of great benefit to other manufacturers, commenting:
“It was a resource that was useful to us, and we knew that it could easily be scaled to be useful to thousands of other businesses.”
Slant Concepts knows a thing or two when it comes to designing and manufacturing products using 3D printed parts. They quickly realized the need to be able to iterate on complex designs efficiently, which would be nearly impossible using traditional techniques.Traditional manufacturing of plastic parts is both costly and time-consuming, especially for quick prototypes and custom-built components. A steel mold or ‘tool’ must first be precisely machined and measured for accuracy before injecting liquid plastic at high temperatures. This process has been known to take months to achieve a first good part. If an iteration is required, another costly modification must be made to the mold and the design engineers are at the mercy of the tool maker. However, once the tool is made and approved, multiple plastic parts can be made cheaply and quickly.
The current perception of 3D printing for plastic is that although it is able to produce complex parts in a short time-frame, it is still too slow and costly for long-term production. Slant 3D hopes to change this perception with their custom designed 3D printing farm. With their combined experience in actually designing for production robotics and utilizing their vertically integrated printers, they have a real edge in understanding how 3D printing can work for both prototypes and production.
“We have created all the components to materialize, in quantity, anything you can imagine. Businesses now have the capability, through us, to develop and produce physical products as one would develop and produce software products,” said Bentz.
Because their printers were designed from the ground-up, they understand what it takes to keep the printers running reliably 90% of the time, a metric which is quite high in the industry. By having full control of the machine design and materials, Slant 3D is able to produce parts much more quickly than other 3D printing farms that rely on third party manufactured printers which, if they fail, usually require a costly and time-consuming customer service call, which negates the advantages of having a 3D printer. Due to their custom design, Slant 3D can also ensure printers are running 24/7 without need for downtime.
Slant 3D also has future plans to build an even larger factory / farm and scale to a point where they are more competitive than conventional manufacturing methods. The company states that they currently have the biggest 3D printer farm in the Northwest US, and are eyeing growth to be the largest in the world.
Slant 3D is located in Nampa, Idaho, based out of the SBDC Business Accelerator. They currently operate 24/7, producing parts and products for a variety of companies across the US. They also help to develop new software and 3D printing technology within a commercial setting.
Discuss in the Slant 3D Printing Farm forum thread at 3DPB.com.
[Images supplied by Slant Concepts unless otherwise noted]
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