Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016 - 93

Stacker LLC

process, a team of two people will roll
a steel frame from station to station as
they build up the printer. "At the last
station, they're running a print of a little Stacker emblem," he says.
Initially, the company encountered
the traditional problems when manufacturing with cells. "We had large,
more cumbersome lines," he recalls.
"We also had a lot of work in progress
laying around."
Stacker encountered "the silo effect," where workers in cells only took
responsibility for their own duties,
which would lead to problems discovered further down the line. "We
created the length of our moving assembly line to have enough space for
three teams with three printers at one
time," Fontaine says.
The company also created cells
where the pair completes each step,
as opposed to a worker at each station. "We're eliminating the hand off
from one team member to the next,"
he says, noting that this requires the
workers to put on the printer's belts,
install the electronics and add wiring.
"It's a tremendous amount more responsibility, but they feel a lot better
about doing it."
Stacker also has partnered seasoned employees with less experienced workers in this process to help
troubleshoot issues faster. "They can
really take care of problems when
they come up," he says.
After gaining experience, "Everyone can fill in and get the printer
built," he says, noting that this made
the manufacturing process more fluid. "It's just really remarkable how it
increases your efficiency.
"It reduces the subassemblies on
the floor, and you always want to reduce those," he says. "You don't want
to slow the line down with a complex
assembly, if you can."

Midwest

stacker aims to continue to
grow with more printer models
for particular niche markets.

Into the Future
Stacker stands as an emerging company within the 3-D printer market,
Fontaine says. "The leader now is
Stratasys," he says, also highlighting
3D Systems as a major in its field.
"A lot of our parts are very similar to theirs in terms of material
strength," he notes. "But our filament prices are often substantially
lower than theirs."
General Electric also recently made
a $1.4 billion investment to get into
the market, while Hewlett-Packard
spent $1 billion. This shows that it is
a good time to be in the 3-D printer
business, Fontaine says.
"It's the future of manufacturing,"
he declares, noting that the entry of
more players is stealing the thunder
Stratasys and 3D Systems. "People
are looking to companies like Stacker

where they're getting fair prices on a
machine and they're getting fair price
on the [filament] refills."
He sees growth for Stacker, which
will include more printer models that
fulfill particular niche markets. Although there will be a limited customer base for a 3-D printer with 25 heads,
it will fill the needs of "a manufacturer
with a larger scale production," Fontaine asserts.
"We're looking at machines that use
more than one print head to print the
same object," he says, noting that if a
client wanted to print a one-meter by
one-meter object with a single print
head, it would take weeks.
"But if you have four print heads,
now you have a matter of days, so you
can print pretty large objects," he
says. "[We're looking at] increasing
the speed of printing technology." mt
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 manufacturing-today.com

93


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016

Table Of Contents
Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016 - Cover1
Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016 - Cover2
Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016 - 1
Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016 - Table Of Contents
Manufacturing Today - November/December 2016 - 3
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