By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Three-dimensional (3D) printing fast tracks product development and manufacturing by keeping production in-house. For companies without printing capabilities, service bureaus are available to offer fast turnarounds with the latest technologies.
The Go-To Manufacturing Partner
In 2013, Fictiv started with two brothers in a small apartment backroom in San Francisco, CA. Its original offering included 3D printed parts completed in just 24 hours.
Today, Fictiv employs over 80 people in San Francisco; Portland, OR; and Guangzhou, China. In addition to rapid turn 3D printing, the company also offers CNC machining for parts in three days as well as urethane casting, injection molding, and post-processing services like painting, anodizing, and silk screening. It serves all areas of the U.S.
While Fictiv doesn’t own any 3D printed machines, its platform connects a distributed network of highly vetted global manufacturers. In its first year the company’s network was small with only a handful of the highest quality 3D printing shops in the Bay Area. “Today we have more than 200 pre-qualified manufacturing partners in the U.S. as well as China,” says Dave Evans, CEO/co-founder, Fictiv.
Before a supplier becomes a Fictiv partner, Fictiv conducts a rigorous series of interviews, facility inspections, and test sample reviews. Its platform provides instant pricing and feedback, partner matching, quality inspection, and streamlined orders.
The company manufactures a range of products including medical devices, consumer electronics, automotive, and aerospace parts. It offers 3D printing materials such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), ABS-like, nylon, polylactic acid (PLA), rubber-like, Vero, and VeroClear. The platform allows clients to select from several 3D printing processes including additive manufacturing, PolyJet, and selective laser sintering. Finishing is also available such as anodizing, Alodine, media blasting, plating, polishing, and powder coating.
According to Evans, the advantages of a distributed manufacturing network is the variety of available machine technologies. “On our network, machines include hobbyist-level devices as well as professional grade machines.” “Our objective at Fictiv is to provide customers access to a range of high-quality manufacturing technologies on a single platform,” he continues.
Compared to traditional manufacturing techniques, Evans believes 3D printing is the ideal tool to help engineers iterate quickly on designs. In 2012, he worked at Ford’s Silicon Valley Innovation Lab and says this technology was critical to help the lab reduce development cycles and achieve proof of concept faster. “That’s why at Fictiv we prioritize speed for our 3D printing service, delivering in 24 hours or even same day for select materials. It’s very costly for hardware development teams to spend days or weeks waiting for physical prototypes, blocking design efforts,” he explains.
Facebook Goes 3D
In 2017, repeat customer Facebook’s EdMod Labs approached Fictiv for 3D printed DIY virtual reality (VR) viewers for students. EdMod focuses on providing students from under-resourced backgrounds exposure to opportunities in technology and computer science.
For this opportunity, EdMod hoped to help students discover a sense of ownership over VR experiences and technologies with VR viewers they could assemble and customize themselves. The team needed to prototype the DIY VR viewers very quickly to get them to the students in a short time frame. According to Evans, the client also needed to find out how to scale production from several viewers to potentially tens of thousands.
Although this is a hardware project, EdMod is not specifically a hardware team. It ultimately decided on 3D printing as a fabrication solution partnered with Fictiv for quick turnaround at high volumes.
Fictiv delivered a hundred VR viewers in less than two weeks. The parts were printed with PLA material due to the low cost and fast turnaround time using fused deposition modeling machines.
EdMod leveraged Fictiv’s manufacturing expertise to scale development for the viewers quickly and with confidence. It was pleased with the final product and continues to use Fictiv for its 3D printing services.
A distributed manufacturing network like Fictiv provides 3D printing services to anyone quickly and cost efficiently. This service bureau’s sales model is a multi-faceted approach to implementing 3D printing into manufacturing.
The next part in this series spotlights a 3D printer specializing in direct metal laser sintering.
Oct2018, Industrial Print Magazine