Forget the Gym, Join a 3D Printing Factory

By: | April 4th, 2013

In 1988, Brett Hanson started a firm that specialized in laser engraving, industrial screen printing, and Pad printing (printing a 2D image onto a 3D object) for OEMs throughout the U.S.

For 24 years, he built up a base of relationships and know-how that he wanted to leverage when he sold his business in February 2012. After the sale, Hanson took a full year to add to his expertise and learn everything that he could about 3D printing technologies and 3D printing equipment manufacturers.

In his new venture, he was looking for something that was community-based and crowd sourced. The new company had to be replicable on a national scale (initially), as well as worldwide. Hanson wanted to bring large, 3D industrial technologies to the masses at a reasonable cost. Enter 3D Creation Systems, the Minneapolis, MN-based additive manufacturing facility that offers SLS, SLA, FDM, and composite technologies to members for as little as $2,500.

The 3D Creation Systems concept is reminiscent of the San Francisco, CA-based Tech Shop, another membership-based, do-it-yourself workshop that offers members access to everything from welding stations and waterjet cutters, to an electronics lab and a machine shop.

Hanson’s brainchild is 3D printing specific, and currently offers members access to:

  • ProJet 3000 HD Plus: 11.75” x 7.3” x 8” build envelope (MJM).
  • ZPrinter Z650: 15” x 10” x 8” (Composite).
  • ZPrinter Z510: 10” x 14” x 8” (Composite).
  • ZBuilder Ultra: 10.2” x 6.3” x 7.5 (DLP).
  • ProJet 1500 Color: 6.75” x 9” x 8” (DLP).
  • Next Engine 3D Scanner.
  • A UV Curing Box.
  • A Two-Part Parts Washer.
  • A Depowdering Station.
  • A ProJet Finisher.
  • A ZBench Finishing Station.

Within the next 30 days, 3D Creations Systems will also add to its current investment and build size:

  • ProJet 7000 SD: 15” x 15” x 10” (SLA, SLS, MJM, Composite).
  • sPro60 SD: 13” x 15” x 17” (SLA).
  • ProJet 3510 HD Max: 11.75” x 7.3” x 8” (MJM).
  • ZPrinter Z850: 20” x 15” x 9” (Composite Powder).

According to Hanson, it was important for his new 3D endeavor to give back to the community. With every membership comes bonus hours that the individual can donate to local schools, universities, students, and other interested parties. For example, if you purchase 60 hours for $2,500, you also receive six bonus hours that you can pledge to a third-party.

The bonus hour program was created to “help promote and educate 3D printing and the industry,” Hanson says. “A member can pledge the bonus hours to anyone as long as they stay within the hours provided pursuant to the membership purchased.” The only cost associated with the bonus hours is related to the amount of material used (per the in3), which is offered at the members price.

The facility will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and membership is quantified to the minute (i.e. if you use the shop for 15 minutes, you are only charged for 15 minutes). The company doesn’t get creative (as other endeavors have) when it comes to rounding a 20-minute visit into an entire hour.

“Our program needed to be able to be a white label virtual factory allowing our community members to use our facility as their own facility,” says Hanson. Minneapolis is merely phase one of Hanson’s plan. He hopes to have 35 locations within a five-year window. A shop in California is next in the queue, followed by locations in New York, Texas, and Europe.

Membership isn’t scarce, but it is limited to 185 members per location whose membership lasts only one year. If a member uses up his/her hours before the end of the calendar year, he/she can buy more hours as needed. The available memberships include:

  • $2,500: 60 hours, 6 bonus hours, 100 available spots.
  • $5,000: 140 hours, 14 bonus hours, 50 spots.
  • $10,000: 320 hours, 32 bonus hours, 25 spots.
  • $25,000: 900 hours, 90 bonus hours, 10 spots.

Training and certification is not required before using the equipment, but the company does offer training services that are limited to a members’ available hours.

According to Hanson, design engineers in the area stand to benefit from 3D Creation Systems because he offers a low entry for maximum technologies to allow engineers the ability to try and learn different technologies at a controlled cost. “It’s a scalable purchase,” Hanson says, “and the engineers can give back to the school where they earned their degree.”

Engineering services are available a la carte style at $60 per hour for members, and $80 per hour for non-members.

Most of us will have to wait for 3D Creations Systems to come to a town near us, but when it does, we must ask ourselves, “Who needs the gym when I can buy a 3D printing factory membership?


Jeremy Helms

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