Also, once you have employees who know how to operate your 3-D scanner, for example, you can test other additive and CNC milling options, as a business-to-business service before you buy them.
Another way to get started is partnerships. Albensi Laboratories and a local jeweler, who wanted to expand his custom CAD work, went in together on the software they both needed, Halke says.
“A lot of people make the mistake that when they are looking at a piece of technology, they just look at price per unit from a materials standpoint, and maybe a labor standpoint, too,” he says. “But there are long-term consumables, especially associated with additive manufacturing.”
You have to consider annual maintenance contracts and parts like lasers heads, projector heads or nozzles. You may only replace them once a year or once every other year, but Halke says it adds up. For example, Albensi Laboratories has a $70,000 3-D printer for which the laser heads cost $6,000 to $7,000 to replace.
“When they do their cost analysis, really make sure that they flesh it out and do a complete cost analysis, not just what seems easy on the surface,” he says.
How to reach: Albensi Laboratories, (724) 864-8880
How it’s trending
Wherever there’s risk, there’s also opportunity, if you can identify the trends, says Antonis Papadourakis, Ph.D., president, CEO and country speaker for the NAFTA region of LANXESS Corp.
That’s very true for digitalization and additive manufacturing that makes companies more than simply a vendor. You grow closer to your customers, becoming a partner and solution provider, he says.
“We’re working very actively to see how we can take advantage of these changes, how we can participate, how we can invest in that and be ahead of the competition, as we move forward,” Papadourakis says. “I see it more as an opportunity, based on these new developments.”
Rich DiClaudio, president and CEO of the Energy Innovation Center, is helping develop workforce training in additive manufacturing for a handful of Pittsburgh companies.
As he’s learned what’s going on in the industry, he was surprised at the mixed response. Some companies have the view that it’s here, while others still see it coming.
“For some groups, we say, strap in — if you’re in manufacturing and you’re not doing additive manufacturing, you will be left behind in a matter of a couple of years,” DiClaudio says.
Several international companies with a local presence see a fairly immediate and growing need for people trained in additive manufacturing.
“But interestingly a couple of other companies that we really expected to have the same answer said: Nope. They don’t see it yet. They think it’s still several years off,” he says.
How to reach: Energy Innovation Center, (412) 894-9800