It’s showtime for 3D printers. Once used to make product prototypes, the devices are now being used for larger manufacturing runs.
El Dorado Hills’ SlideBelts plans to join the vanguard starting next year.
Brig Taylor, co-owner of SlideBelts, told me that he is spending half-a-million dollars on a 3D printer to produce buckles for the new survival belt his company is introducing in 2015. He and his wife, co-owner Michelle Taylor, finished up a successful Kickstarter campaign in September that raised $200,032 to get the belts manufactured. The buckles can be used to open bottles and start fires, while the belts have enough tensile strength to tow in a boat or carry heavy objects.
“We’re purchasing a new 3D printer from a company called Renishaw, out of the U.K., and they make a bunch of different machines, one of which is a 3D printer that prints in titanium,” Brig Taylor said. “The prices on titanium powder have dropped dramatically because they have a new process for gathering the titanium powder, so it actually works in favor for us.”
Taylor said he met with engineers from Renishaw a few weeks ago at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, and as he penciled out the numbers, it began to make sense for SlideBelts to get into manufacturing. With a 3D printer, the product design is created in a computer file, and the printer creates a product out of whatever metal or plastic additives are loaded into the machine.
“Most people are trying to produce, say, a titanium bike, but it ends up being a $10,000 titanium bike. We make an innovative product, but we don’t use much metal. That means a 3D printer makes sense for us.”
Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.