Standing in place of what was once an old Chrysler manufacturing plant in San Leandro, California, the heart of the world’s largest 3D technology startup cluster beats away. One of those startups is Type A Machines, a small company, founded in 2012 as an early adopter of the RepRap movement and now on a mission to lead the next wave of additive manufacturing.
Residing in this huge space, rich in industrial manufacturing history, Type A Machines is happy to share its home with a coalition of rising tech companies focused on materials, servicing, training, software and just about every other part of the 3D printing ecosystem.
“It’s a more accessible approach to building up the company where we’re letting other people come in and play with us and it’s turned out pretty well so far,” Espen Sivertsen, CEO of Type A Machines, commented.
The Series 1 Pro 3D printer is Type A Machine’s answer to what they’re seeing as a big shift in the industry moving towards a more distributed approach to manufacturing. The modular desktop machine is a scalable fused filament production system which can be used individually or as part of a Print Pod system of up to six printers. This means it is possible for manufacturers to scale their production from 1-10,000 parts using the same machine and upgrade the system for their own specifications.
“The power of the distributed approach is actually a really interesting play for production companies where you might not need that capacity immediately when going into the market,” Espen explained. “The idea is you scale organically as you need to. We believe it’s the future of manufacturing.”
Right now the Series 1 supports 40 materials including flexible, conductive, magnetic and carbon fibre filaments. The plan is to turn that number into 140 within the next few months to include just about any material that can extrude below 300°C.
Type A Machines presented the machine at RAPID 2015 and were met with positive feedback from people who were somewhat sceptical about a $3,000 printer being a real production tool. As the company evolves into more of a platform company with the development of its own OS, service platform and hardware, its focus is on professional users of additive manufacturing and companies wanting to bring new products to market, quickly.
Espen explained: “The idea is we’ll be able to provide our customers the entire ecosystem from materials, to 3D printing services, to 3D printers, training, operator training, certification, so that from a manufacturing point of view, you can use Type A Machines to bridge that gap that’s existed in the past between prototyping and volumetric production.”
Type A Machines has just released a whitepaper which demonstrates an idea they’re particularly excited about, the prospect of AM taking on injection moulding in the sub-10,000 unit space and winning. They’ve also received the seal of approval from companies like Autodesk, Intel and Google and most recently installed a machine at Berkeley University. The company wants to prove to industrial users that low cost desktop machines can be a real valuable production tool and that multiple, smaller units working in unison to provide parts on demand might actually be more valuable than one huge machine.
“The industry is really starting to wake up to the idea that AM is a production tool and we’re trying to lead the way on the fused filament side for that.”