Software Aims to Simplify 'Black Arts' of 3D Printing

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(Image of 3D printed metal component courtesy of ITAMCO.) (Image of 3D printed metal component courtesy of ITAMCO.)

The chief executive officer of a Plymouth-based 3D printing software company believes traditional manufacturers in the state could "miss the boat" if they are not paying attention to the emerging technology. "There is definitely a groundswell happening, where more and more parts are being moved to additive manufacturing," says Chad Barden of Atlas 3D. "Components that used to have 150 parts sometimes are being reduced to 14 because of the flexibility of additive manufacturing." Atlas 3D is a spin-out of Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies in Marshall County and was created through a multi-million dollar manufacturing initiative called "America Makes."

The University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh and the Johnson & Johnson-owned DePuy Synthes Companies, which was launched and still has a presence in Warsaw, were connected with ITAMCO through the America Makes partnership.

Barden says his startup works to reduce the "black art" of easily and predictably designing 3D printed parts. "It's definitely not software that's specific to any one industry," Barden tells Inside INdiana Business. "Where we've struck a nerve most readily is where there is 3D printing of metal, which is a horribly interesting, reasonably new development in additive manufacturing." He says more than 1,000 such printers, which use metals like titanium and steel to create components instead of media more commonly associated with the process, were sold last year.

He says subtractive manufacturing techniques still make sense in a lot of cases, including high-volume situations. Additive manufacturing, Barden believes, continues to evolve and could help reduce costs in situations where product designs are changed over time. "Whether it's polymers, ceramics or metal, additive manufacturing has been more in the prototyping and I'll call it high-value part manufacturing arena, but the costs are coming down and the speed with which things can be printed is coming down and that allows the core technology to be applied to what I'll term traditional-volume manufacturing."

This week, Atlas 3D was awarded a High-Potential Startup Grant of $25,000 from Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures. The support is designed to help the startup more rapidly move from development stages to commercialization. Elevate Ventures says funds will help Atlas 3D transition its software to the cloud in a partnership with Trek10, another company supported by Elevate Ventures.

Atlas 3D currently has three employees, and Elevate Ventures says the software is expected to hit the market this summer. You can connect to more about Atlas 3D by clicking here.

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