Corey Weber Co-Founder, Forecast 3D3D printing’s digital industrial revolution is in its early days, but it’s already being embraced across the full spectrum of the manufacturing business from major industries and large enterprises to independent local purveyors known as printing service bureaus.
Recently, Forecast 3D, one of the oldest and largest privately-owned service bureaus in the U.S., became the first to offer full-scale 3D manufacturing with the installation of 12 HP 3D printing units.
In honor of tomorrow’s Manufacturing Day 2017, Forecast 3D Co-Founder Corey Weber discusses how that capability has transformed his business, and how it foretells a far greater disruption of the global manufacturing industry ahead.
What does Forecast 3D do?
My brother Donovan and I started Forecast 3D back in 1994 as a rapid prototyping service bureau. Rapid prototyping is the original term for 3D printing, which back then was just becoming a viable way to quickly make revisions to prototypes of various things. HP’s Multi Jet Fusion has allowed us to use our prototyping prowess to expand into full-scale, end-to-end 3D production, but more on that later.
We started the company in a 500 square-foot space down by the beach here in Carlsbad, California with a $5,000 loan from our grandfather. Modest beginnings for sure. But we quickly became known for the high quality of our products and services and grew very fast. Today we have 49,000 square feet of 3D printing goodness using the latest manufacturing technologies to best fit our customers’ needs, including Multi Jet Fusion.
How have you seen the 3D printing industry evolve since you began?
It has majorly evolved since I began my career in 1990. I remember working with some of the early technologies and thinking this is junk! But so many of those technologies have since made tremendous advancements that have allowed the industry to grow at an amazing rate, and new technologies like Multi Jet Fusion have taken things to a whole new level with full 3D production. It used to be easy to keep track of everything that was going on, now there’s so much happening that just keeping up can be a full-time job.
Why did you decide to make such a big investment in Multi Jet Fusion with the installation of 12 HP 3D printing units?
When you’ve been in this industry as long as I have, you get to know a lot about both the pros and cons of 3D printing. The upsides are potentially limitless, but the main downside, the Achilles Heel that has kept 3D printing from becoming mainstream, has always been slow speed and high costs. HP has removed those shackles with Multi Jet Fusion and made 3D printing faster and more cost-effective than ever before, which opens up a whole new world of opportunities for us. When we first tested HP’s 3D printers a year ago we immediately saw how much they could achieve, and how far they could push the industry forward, so the only thing to do was go big.
What benefits do you see Multi Jet Fusion having over other types of manufacturing technology?
The speed alone is a tremendous benefit. To go from iterating multiple design cycles with prototypes to final production in one week is unprecedented. Being able to shorten the time-to-market can make a dramatic difference in the success of a product. And even if a product falls flat, the startup capital risk is so low that you can take your learnings and iterate a new, better product for little additional investment, especially important for smaller startups.
The degree of manufacturing flexibility is one of the biggest benefits over conventional manufacturing technology, I strongly believe that once designers start to adopt the out-of-the-box thinking and boundless creativity that Multi Jet Fusion allows, we’ll see some amazing advancements in product design, innovation and performance. The companies that embrace this new mindset early will see a huge competitive advantage.
How does being the first service bureau with the capacity for full-run 3D production with Multi Jet Fusion change your business now, and your outlook for the future?
Being the first to have this capacity has changed the way we think about 3D printing entirely. We’ve done small production jobs before, but the time and cost required by existing technologies made it impractical for anything beyond a few hundred parts. But with the installation of 12 Multi Jet Fusion units at our new facility, we now have the capacity to produce 600,000 parts in a single week. That’s the most significant leap that I’ve ever seen in 3D printing: going from prototyping and small batch production to full-run, large-scale 3D manufacturing. It’s drastically expanded the type and range of opportunities we can pursue, and it’s a microcosm for the way 3D printing is going to transform the entire global manufacturing industry.
Where do you see the 3D printing industry 5 years from now?
For decades, 3D printing has only been viewed as a viable manufacturing option by a small number of forward-thinking companies. But Multi Jet Fusion has turned that promise into a reality and opened the doors for the industry to grow at mass scale. I predict that in 5 years, 3D printing will already be a primary manufacturing process for at least 25% of companies in the world. Considering the size of the manufacturing industry, that is a mind-boggling amount of growth that will only continue to gain speed.
Ultimately, how do you think 3D printing’s transformation of the manufacturing industry will change the global business landscape, and change people’s lives on a personal level.
I think one of the greatest transformations that 3D printing will have on global business will be a push towards local manufacturing. Companies will be able to bring much of their manufacturing home, which will be positive in so many ways, especially in terms of the natural resources it requires to transport mass volumes of products overseas.
On a more personal level, kids these days are growing up with 3D printing as a household word, and getting introduced to the concept of computer-aided design at an early age. I think this will start a generational shift where today’s tech-savvy kids will be more inclined to make things rather than simply buy them. Right now, consumer technology often means just going online to buy stuff. But in the future, I think people will have a less passive relationship with technology and will use it to make more things for themselves, customized to their own personal tastes.
I’ve custom-designed and printed many things for myself because they didn’t exist in the form that I needed them, from a cup holder for my ’68 Charger to a tool that cleans the leaves off my tile roof. Multi Jet Fusion gives you the power to create things quickly, at low cost, to the specifications of individual people, from my cup holder to a future with custom-printed shoes, cars, medical devices, household goods, and beyond. The possibilities are truly staggering.