Additive Manufacturing

MAR 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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AM / Manufacturing from a Microfactory additivemanufacturing.media 41 architecture firms ordering scale models, to industrial clients requiring prototypes or short runs of industrial hardware, to marketing agencies ordering thousands of promotional give- aways, all produced by these printers working in tandem. Voodoo's choice of printer is no accident. Its four founders— Schwartz, Max Friefeld, Oliver Ortlieb and Patrick Deem—were all previously employed by MakerBot, and so are intimately familiar with this printer and confident in its ability to produce end-use quality parts. Using the same printer model across the microfactory helps to ensure reliability and prevents any confu- sion that might come with changing machines from job to job. Owning so many also means there is built-in redundancy; when one goes down, jobs can be rerouted to other printers to allow for repairs or maintenance. Importantly, though, while the company is engaged in production via 3D printing currently, Voodoo does not consider itself exclusively a 3D printing manufacturer. "We are a digital manufacturing company," says Schwartz, explaining that Voo- doo is actually technology agnostic. The company's philosophy is more about providing a service by hitting the right economics than staying loyal to any particular manufacturing method. For now, that method happens to be 3D printing. Software-Driven Though a manufacturing business that relies on desktop 3D printers is unusual in and of itself, perhaps the more significant characteristic of Voodoo Mfg. is the software that makes this "digital manufacturing" model viable. It's one thing to own a couple hundred 3D printers, but it's another to be able to receive and deploy jobs to them in an efficient manner. That's where the software expertise of Voodoo's founders comes in. Three of Voodoo's four founders—Schwartz, Friefeld and Ortlieb—started their first company together, a 3D printing portal called Layer by Layer, in 2012. This platform used digital rights management (DRM) software to enable designers to stream 3D models directly to customers' 3D printers, protect- ing their work against piracy. Layer by Layer was purchased by MakerBot in February of 2014, and its founders became MakerBot employees. In May of 2015, the three founders plus Patrick Deem, for- merly head of mergers and acquisitions at MakerBot, departed to launch Voodoo Mfg. Time spent at MakerBot had convinced the four that it was possible to 3D print quality end-use parts, and so 3D printing became the enabling technology behind a new business that would be based on the ease of online order- ing and flexible, on-demand manufacturing. Such an undertaking in mass customization might not have been feasible without the combination of 3D printing and sophisticated software providing a direct link from design file to production part. After leaving MakerBot, the founders had to rebuild much of their software from scratch. Not only did they recreate an online ordering system similar to the concept for Layer by Layer, but they also developed the Voodoo Operating System (VOS), a pro- gram that Schwartz calls "the brain" of the operation. VOS now drives all parts of the business, from managing incoming orders to controlling the printers themselves. Each of the Replicator 2 printers is tied into this system via a USB connection. VOS allows Voodoo to manage its full fleet of printers and of- fer a range of services. A direct print option, optimized for speed, enables customers to upload a design and have 1 to 100 units manufactured in as little as 24 hours, a good choice for rapid prototyping or one-off manufacturing. Volume production ac- commodates batch sizes ranging to 10,000 parts with turnaround time of two weeks for parts that fit within the 11.2 by 6 by 6.1-inch MakerBot Rep2 envelope. Larger batch sizes and parts can be ordered through the Voodoo sales department, and an in-house design team supports customers needing design assistance. Voodoo even offers API integration that allows customers to connect their customers directly with Voodoo's microfactory to place orders. VOS dispatches incoming orders to the available printers so that manufacturing can begin as quickly as possible. In one use case of the API, Voodoo manufactured 10,000 unique designs for Dixie To Go coffee stoppers that consumers created and ordered through Dixie's website. Such an undertaking in mass customization might not have been feasible without the Voodoo Mfg. says its prices are competitive with injection molding for batch sizes ranging from 1 to 10,000 parts. Clients include marketing and promotional customers, movie stu- dios, and events planners in addition to industrial customers.

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