Woodward Inc. expanding operations in Zeeland

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Woodward Inc. is converting a previous warehouse space into an industrialized space that will be dedicated to additive manufacturing. Courtesy Lakeshore Advantage

A Colorado company is expanding its facility in Zeeland to make room for an innovative approach to aerospace manufacturing.

Fort Collins, Colorado-based Woodward Inc. is converting a previous warehouse space into an industrialized space that will be dedicated to additive manufacturing, according to the Lakeshore Advantage on Wednesday. The economic development agency helped Woodward secure an industrial facilities tax exemption from the city of Zeeland for the project.

Woodward did not reveal the cost of the expansion.

Woodward is an independent designer, manufacturer and service provider of control system solutions and components for the aerospace and industrial markets. Its customers include original equipment manufacturers and end users. Woodward performs additive manufacturing, assembly, machining, brazing, welding and testing in the manufacturing processes for fuel nozzles and afterburners.

Additive manufacturing is another name for 3D printing, where instead of removing material to create a part using a mill or lathe, the material is added and built up to create the shape of the part.

Woodward works primarily in laser powder bed fusion, where a laser mounted above the build plate fires down and melts very fine metal powder, building material up layer by layer. Ultimately, the additive manufacturing process creates metal parts that can withstand rigorous conditions such as high temperature and high altitude — the same as machined or casted products, Woodward said.

The additive manufacturing process has been in development at the company’s Zeeland location since 2012. Woodward started with one machine in a small space experimenting with different materials and designs to test the machine’s capabilities to 3D print complex structures. These first trials were showcased for Woodward’s customers.

As it became apparent the demand for additive manufactured products would grow, Woodward purchased a previously leased space totaling over 26,000 square feet that was being used for new product introduction and warehousing. The team at Woodward is working to clear the space and industrialize 15,000 square feet that will be dedicated to additive manufacturing.

“Woodward is pleased to continue its growth in West Michigan through the purchase and industrialization of the fourth building on our campus and through the introduction of this very innovative manufacturing process,” said Erik Pederson, Woodward vice president and general manager in Zeeland. “We greatly appreciate the support we received from Lakeshore Advantage and the city of Zeeland in helping to make this a reality.”

Dave Barnes, Woodward human resources manager in Zeeland, said the facility conversion will create jobs. Today, the team in Zeeland is comprised of about 280 members

“The addition of this process and facility will strengthen our position with our customers and pave the way for additional job growth throughout our value streams,” he said. “It’s our team of highly collaborative and innovative individuals that make Woodward a success and allow us to bring these new processes to fruition — all while being guided by our core values.”

Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president, said Woodward is a great example of the growth of Industry 4.0 technologies among companies in West Michigan.

“Woodward is a world-class employer, investing in the region’s innovation culture and economic future. We are proud to support their growth here,” Owens said.

Zeeland Mayor Kevin Klynstra added, “We appreciate Woodward’s presence here in our community and are pleased to provide support for their expansion and investment in their facility.”

The new additive manufacturing process is expected to be fully operational and shipping production parts to customers by January.

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