Scarlett Inc. launched a new website, 3DPrintedParts.com, at the end of last year to support its expanded focus on 3-D printing applications.
3DPrintedParts.com provides quotes on parts, machine details, applications consulting and blog posts on innovations in industrial applications of 3-D printing.
Mike McLean, general manager of Scarlett’s 3-D-printing business, said 3-D printing primarily has been used for prototyping but is beginning to gain traction in the areas of tooling and end-use parts, as well — areas Scarlett hopes to grow.
“Our staff is all engineers, so we are looking toward more advanced applications, and that is where we are seeing the most growth — in production parts or production tooling, in some cases,” McLean said.
He said companies can experience several benefits as a result of using 3-D printing in tooling and parts production.
“We’ve had some good success stories,” McLean said. “In one instance, we were able to print injection mold tooling out of steel for a customer, and it actually reduced the cycle time on that part from 14 seconds to seven seconds per cycle. So, a 50 percent cycle time reduction, which on a million parts is really good.”
McLean said in conventional manufacturing, “you start with stock material and machine away what you don’t need. In 3-D printing, it’s the reverse: You start with a design and only add the material that you need, one layer at a time.
“3-D printing can reduce product development times, improve time to market, create higher-performing products and simplify supply chain management.”
McLean said what sets Scarlett apart is that as an equipment seller, the company has developed a network it can leverage for clients.
“Over the last two years, we’ve developed a vast network of 3-D-printing capacity in businesses throughout the Midwest,” he explained. “By leveraging this distributed manufacturing network, 3DPrintedParts.com will enable designers and engineers to obtain custom and low-volume parts in as little as one day.”
McLean said the 3-D printed market consists of at least 75 different machines, all with different applications, build volumes and materials niches.
“They all have their sweet spots,” he said.
McLean added, “… We have a pre-vetted network of suppliers for these different materials. A purchasing agent or an engineer can contact us for their parts, and we can source them through our network and provide them with the solution without them having to manage 50 suppliers to get the parts they need.”
He acknowledged the 3-D printing business is a way to support the company’s core business of equipment sales.
“Eventually, we could say, ‘You’ve purchased $200,000 of printed parts in the last two years. At that rate, you could justify a production scale machine,’” he said.
Though 3-D printing is expanding, McLean said for many businesses it still is a relatively new technology, and business owners often aren’t sure how to optimize the advantages of 3-D printing.
“A lot of companies don’t know how it fits into their process or organization,” he said. “They think of prototyping, but there are a lot more in-depth applications we can help people discover.”
Scarlett offers additive consulting to help companies interested in exploring 3-D printing opportunities.
“We go through organizations and can review their operations,” he said.
Scarlett will review a company’s product development and manufacturing streams and identify where 3-D printing could make an impact.
“We could go through a consumer products manufacturer and say if you were to purchase this style of machine, we could reduce your product development timeline by 30 percent, but also by allowing X amount of money in your operating budget every year for purchasing these parts, you can improve tooling turnaround time on your shop floor for jigs and fixtures or replacement parts for this machine. So, we are trying to help them streamline the entire organization, not just the product development models,” he said.
McLean said for now, machine sales remain the dominant part of Scarlett’s business, making up at least 95 percent of its sales, but he said in the future, he could see 3-D printing services and additive consulting reaching as high as 25-30 percent of its business.
“But it will be measured growth,” he said. “The parts business is there to help onboard companies to this newer technology of 3-D printing.
“We are viewing 3-D printing as a growth avenue — a way for the core business to diversify into newer technology but also to dip our toes into the manufacturing space.”