I met Michael Sickinger at an open house of The 3D Printing Store in Denver. He’s an Account Executive at Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies and he sold T3DPS the Stratasys uPrint that churns out models for their engineer clients. Michael told me a lot about the Stratasys line of 3D printers while I watched the uPrint quietly manifest snowflakes and a wrench. One of the first noticeable characteristics of the printer is the wave of warm air that greets you when its door is opened. The heated build chamber is an important mechanism in creating high-quality prints as it prevents warping. Anyway, Michael invited me to his office to see more of the behind the scenes at PADT, and I gladly went.
A couple shelves and a glass case full of different colored objects display to all visitors some of the possibilities that can be realized through PADT’s services. The company motto is “We make innovation work,” so the services offered cover a wide scope of needs. There are three basic services available to clients: simulation, product development, and rapid prototyping. What really makes the company successful, though, in my opinion, is that the core philosophy includes maintaining a high level of integrity and striving to “synergistically combine disciplines.” And they do. Leveraging their 600 computer cluster cores with experienced engineers that know how to operate professional 3D printers means every project gets the attention it needs. Rapid prototyping with 3D printers has been gaining popularity recently, but PADT uses every tool necessary to achieve clients’ product goals, including CNC, a traditional wood shop, and even a physical materials testing lab. The staff all have various expertises but they all collaborate to solve technical and non-technical issues that clients have.While I was there a Fortus 250mc was just finishing a large turbine for a client that is optimizing a pump system; after a coat of epoxy it could actually serve as a functional unit. I got to see it come hot off the press. Now, I’ve seen personal printer supports removed from fresh prints, and it often takes fine-tipped tools and a delicate touch. That is not the case with Stratasys systems. Most of the supports were cleanly removed just by lightly tugging on them. Any supports that are hard to reach are completely taken care of by a bath system developed by PADT.
The printers are incredibly easy to work with too, especially the uPrint SE Plus. The included software places objects in the most printable positions, slices VERY quickly, and adds supports automatically. When the print button is clicked, the printer autolevels, purges a bit of filament, and starts the print all in about two minutes. They can also be paused easily. In fact, the Fortus has a special pause feature for adding circuitry or other components mid print.
It was incredibly apparent that everyone there knew what they were doing, and they are more than happy to discuss what it is that they do. It was nice to see the high-end printers working, but it was enlightening to see how they enhance and are enhanced by other technologies and knowledge bases. Product development may start with simulations or with prototypes, but the same facility can print molds for injection molding that will last for thousands of runs. PADT is truly a one-stop shop for turning an idea into a useable and/or marketable product.