Manufacturing Today - May/June 2017 - 26
SPECIAL SECTION Additive Manufacuring
"The customer is now working
toward manufacturing certification
with the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA," he says. "Once they are
up and running, they estimate they
will buy 20 Print Pods to make one
million parts per year. In the world of
3D printing, that kind of production is
Reacting To Needs
The first three machines Type A Machines sold went to education institutions. Today, education is the largest
industry segment that buys the company's products.
"Of our first three machines, one
of them went to the San Francisco Library and the other two were sold to
the School of Environmental Design at
UC Berkeley," Rutter says. "Today, UC
Berkeley has three of our Print Pods.
We have sold machines to all sorts of
high schools and universities, and we
have even worked with local schools
hosting education pilot programs.
manufacturing-today.com MAY/JUNE 2017
"Education is adopting 3D printing
really fast because it gives students
easy access to manufacturing tools,"
Rutter continues. "It's also a great
way to teach students computer design skills."
But Type A Machines sees another
market blossoming in the long-term:
"We have a fast growing list of manufacturing customers," Rutter explains. "They are all going into spaces
where 3D printers are rarely used, if
ever. The challenge with manufacturing is finding the classic product
market fit. It's not whether or not
our product fits; it's about the product that they want to make. It's about
finding the application for it because
a 3D printer can't just make whatever
you give it.
"So the customers we have are pioneers, and they understand how to
exploit the process and technology to
deliver something that is genuinely
different," Rutter notes. "For exam-
ple, if you're comparing it to injection
molding, we can't compete in terms
of costs. However, if we can be price
competitive by bringing the weight
down by a significant percentage, that
suddenly becomes a valuable thing."
Rutter adds that although many of
its suppliers are conventional manufacturers of components, many of the
materials the company prints with are
"Historically, there were not many
filament materials available that you
could print with," he says. "So it's interesting to see how many companies
are now getting into that market. For
example, in 2013 there were probably
more different types of filament on
the market than had been put out in
the past 20 years."
For that reason, Type A Machines
wants to partner and work closely
with companies that use various types
"It's not just a matter of if someone
can produce a good, quality material
and print with it," Rutter explains.
"Part of our focus is understanding
the material itself, as we have often
found this lack of understanding as
the fundamental barrier for our manufacturing customers.
"So it's not only about being able to
support an off the shelf material, but
also coming up with a suitable material if customers don't already have it,"
he adds. "We literally have customers
come to us and say they need a certain
part or print that can do something in
particular. So if we partner with the
right filament suppliers, we can go to
them and they can figure out how to
make that happen."
According to Rutter, Type A Machines is still a start-up, and they take
advantage of the proactive and agile