A new Franklin company plans to use 3D printers to make custom metal parts for businesses in the aerospace and medical industries.
A trio of local engineers and businessmen are starting a 3D manufacturing company, Innovative 3D Manufacturing, which will use 3D printers to build prototype parts for businesses in fields such aerospace and medical industries.
Chris Beck, vice president of operations and manager of engineering at Heartland Machinery in Franklin, said he has seen an increased need for prototype parts for situations such as when a company would only need several parts to use in its testing or design phases.
Beck, who will be the company’s president, along with Jack Laugle, the owner of Innovative Casting Technologies, and Matt Egenolf, an engineering consultant, are the three investors in the company.
By using 3D printers, these custom parts can be built much quicker than through normal manufacturing processes, he said.
While the process is faster, it also is expensive, as a single 3D printer can cost as much as $750,000, Beck said.
“A lot of companies don’t want to pay for the expense of the machines,” Beck said. “That is where a company like ours that can produce for a reasonable price will be successful.”
They are seeking a tax break from the Franklin City Council. The amount could range from $14,500 to $40,000, depending on how long of a tax break the council approves.
The tax break being requested is for $1.2 million in equipment, but the overall investment in the project has topped several million dollars, Beck said.
Getting the tax break will help the company manage cash flow during the startup, he said.
Innovated 3D Manufacturing will have two employees with average salaries of $20 to $25 per hour, not including benefits, along with plans for another two employees in the next year.
They are renovating the former Napa Auto Parts Store at 600 International Drive and expect equipment to arrive in April, Beck said.
While non-commercial use of 3D printers is mostly relegated to plastics, commercial 3D printing can be used for everything from steel to gold. Aluminum, stainless steel and titanium are some of the materials the printers Innovated 3D printing will use to build engine parts or small, intricate pieces for medical equipment, Beck said.
The technology works by adding paper-thin layers of metal using a laser to fuse small grains of powder onto an existing surface.
The build area for the printers is a a one-foot cube, and multiple parts can be made at the same time depending on their size, Beck said.
That process can take anywhere from 10 to 70 hours, depending on the size of the items being made, he said.
Some parts are completely finished after the 3D printing, others will need further refinement, Beck said.
If a company needs to replace or replicate a part that it doesn’t have designs for, they have a machine that can take a 3D laser scan of the part and make an exact copy of it in the 3D printer, Beck said.