By Eric Peterson | Feb 26, 2018
Prototyping and low-volume manufacturing services
Industry: Contract Manufacturing
Products: Prototyping and low-volume manufacturing
After Collins started Avid Product Development, he focused on contract mechanical design and engineering for the first five years, with clients ranging from "inventors to large companies."
In 2014, he bought another company, Wolverton Mechanical Design, primarily for its Stratasys 3D printer. "It made us a manufacturer," he says. "I wanted to get into the additive manufacturing world." Avid moved into "low-volume manufacturing and lots of prototypes."
Collins' classmate at Colorado School of Mines, Billson joined Avid in 2016 after serving as COO of Micro-g LaCoste, a manufacturer of borehole gravity meters. "I wanted ownership," says Billson. "I really looked at it as an opportunity to grow and do my own thing."
The duo bought a second Stratasys in early 2016. "We had enough business and needed more capacity," says Collins.
When Hewlett-Packard moved into 3D printers later that year, Avid was one of the first companies to buy a Jet Fusion unit. Collins says the decision was based on it being "faster and more of a manufacturing center, versus a prototyping center."
Nearly two years later, Collins has no regrets. "It's the real deal," he says. "The biggest job we did for one customer was 35,000 parts." But it's more typical for Avid to do runs of 1,000 to 5,000 parts, he adds. "We do lots of housing and enclosures for electronics."
Collins says Avid offers clients a "bridge" between prototyping and injection molding. "Mold tooling is really expensive," he says. "It might cost you $200,000 to tool up." With 3D printing, he adds, "The per-part cost is more but there’s no tooling involved."
One client, a Boulder-based startup, needed 2,000 parts "really fast," adds Collins. "The part cost ws $3 to $4. We were able to do that in two weeks. Tooling would have been $60,000 to $100,000 and it would have taken three to four months."
Key customers include Vestas, Broadcom, and EDM. Vestas uses Avid to make parts while tooling is in progress, says Collins. "They designed a new product and needed to bridge the time before their tooling was ready.
Another client, Wisconsin-based DeerMapper makes a system that tracks game with the help of Bluetooth-enabled cameras."They had their initial tooling and design made overseas," says Billson. "It didn't turn out exactly how they needed it to." Avid did a redesign and 3D printed several prototypes for testing. "The great thing about 3D printing is you get to sail fast."
Avid enjoyed more than 100 percent growth in 2017, and has grown from just Collins to eight employees in the last three years. The company continues to expand. "We'll probably need to hire two or three people mere by mid-2018," says Collins.
Challenges: "Having the right technologies to manage workflow," says Collins. For this reason, Avid is in the process of selecting a new CRM system that integrates with everything from ordering to shipping. "Implementing a system like that will be a big help for us in 2018," he says.
"One of the struggles is getting big manufacturers to understand the utility of 3D printers like we have," adds Billson. Getting a few minutes to educate a company leader "really opens their eyes."
Opportunities: "Aerospace," says Collins. "There's some good opportunity there. Materials are a challenge."
Needs: More capacity and more people. To fill the former, Avid will likely buy a second HP printer in 2018, says Collins. As for the latter, he says Avid will hire sales and operations people "in the near future."