How a Pandemic and a 3D Printer Transformed My Business
Have you ever thought you had a pretty good idea where you were going with your career and business just to seem to have the rug pulled out from beneath your feet? So often in business we see companies highlighted for their success stories when things are going forward in a positive direction, but the reality is, we all have setbacks, learning moments and, yes, even failures. Life hands us all a curveball now and then. This is the point when we must decide what we are going to do with the situation. Let’s be real here. We’ve all had a sink or swim moment.
At CMP Technologies LLC, we were on the road of providing robotics and automation customer-specific training. After being in the business for 30 years and opening our own business six years ago, there were many jobs and companies to help.
I have helped solve problems for many companies from small suppliers to OEM including GM, Ford, Chrysler, Boeing and more. For the last few years, I had been teaching Ford employees about robotics programming as an instructor for Cuyahoga Community College in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Things were really taking off. I even met with former United States Secretary of Education Betsy Devos to discuss curriculum that I developed for an up-and-coming workforce development program for the college. We honestly thought the only way this could go for our business was up!
As fate would have it, COVID-19 hit and turned our world upside down. Suddenly, the school and training stopped along with no companies taking on new projects. There seemed to be no projection for when things would turn back around.
We spent our days looking for new opportunities and a way to climb back up. That’s when we came across Automation Alley’s Project DIAMOnD and the huge opportunity it presented.
Through the CARES grant-funded Project DIAMOnD, our company was able to receive a state-of-the-art Markforged 3D printer. I had an interest in 3D printing and had started playing with the technology a bit before this on a starter model printer, however, I was far from an expert and had a lot to learn. This project opened a whole new world to us!
As a first impression, we were excited to dig in but at the same time a little unsure of our capabilities. It was reassuring to find out that Markforged offered a course to learn about the 3D printer, as well as support services. We dug in and were surprised how much information was taught and how informative the program was. We learned a lot and gained a much better understanding of the whole process and technology. We still didn’t feel like experts, but quite capable.
The more we worked with the technology, the more confident we became. With that confidence, the ideas started to flow about all the things we could actually do with this technology! It’s truly amazing how many different applications you can use these machines for.
We started talking about 3D printing to customers that we were helping with automation. We walked their production lines to find out where they were having problems and to potentially improve their processes. We found there were many ways to implement this technology that surely was a savings in our customers’ time and cost. Right away, we identified brackets to hold paint spray guns that cost $3,500 from a supplier. These brackets also had long order times. They could be 3D printed at the same strength for a third of the cost.
Once those were completed and installed, it created an excitement in the customer’s facility, opening employees’ eyes to many other possibilities to apply the technology. Employees and management were actively seeking ways to implement 3D printing for saving time and cost along with fixing duct tape cures and safety measures.
The biggest challenge for us was getting comfortable with the CAD design process. We found, once again, that the best way to move forward was to work with the technology and learn from mistakes. Then, we identified what we wanted to focus on printing, who our target customer was and how to market this new service.
When you don’t know (or don’t know much) about 3D printing, people assume it’s beyond them or must be very complex. People are naturally resistant to change, even if it can really help improve their business. Once you grasp the concept of 3D printing, the benefits that can be achieved and the possibilities it creates open a whole new world. That enthusiasm runs through the whole workplace and can transform the culture of your entire company. Everyone starts looking for ways to make things better. People feel valued and important by easily being able to try out new ideas and test new concepts. We’ve seen this first-hand in our business and in our customers’ businesses as well.
We have learned so much through this business transformation and are excited about what the future holds for the 3D printing industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds. Today, we are proud to say we offer an industry-leading 3D printing service. Whether you need prototypes, production parts, or you’re a hobbyist, we can make them for you at an affordable price with quick turn-around times.
The biggest take away from this experience is that you are going to get out of digital transformation what you put into it. If you have a desire and excitement about learning this process, there are endless possibilities and ways to use additive manufacturing and other Industry 4.0 technologies to benefit your business.
In addition, through Project DIAMOnD, we have access to the largest blockchain-enabled 3D printer network in the United States (300 printers), which is a huge advantage for all companies involved. We have access to a wealth of information and people that are very willing to help each other. Through collaborative work, the sky is the limit!
We at CMP Technologies LLC are very appreciative of the huge opportunity Project DIAMOnD presented to us and are striving to make the most of it every day. If you are in need of help, collaboration or just want to connect, please feel free to reach out to us.