By Eric Peterson | Jan 04, 2021
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Founder and Chief Services Officer Clay Guillory started Titan Robotics while working for Diversified Machine Systems, the Colorado Springs-based manufacturer of CNC routers. The Louisiana transplant had bought an open-source RepRap 3D printer kit in late 2013 and finished making it in April 2014.
He posted an offer on Craigslist to print parts on a contract basis, and got a request from an architect, not for a part, but for a super-sized 3D printer -- 30 inches by 30 inches by 45 inches -- to print giant molds and pour concrete in them.
He took on the challenge, developed the Atlas, and launched Titan down the path it's on today. In the past five years, the company has tripled its staff as its reputation soared. Sales grew more than sixfold from 2018 to 2020, with Titan maintaining a bootstrapped approach and operating on a cast-positive basis.
"The Atlas was born and proven to meet the needs of industrial customers time after time, and that is what has fueled our growth," says Guillory. "We address cost and speed issues, which have been the real limitation for 3D printing for 30 years."
Respective veterans of DuPont and McDonnell Douglas/Boeing, CEO Rahul Kasat and CTO Bill Macy partnered with Guillory and joined Titan's management team in 2018, then the company moved into a 22,000-square-foot facility in late 2019.
Titan is strategically positioning its technology to compete with established high-volume manufacturing methods. "We really focus on printing with injection-molding pellets, which is groundbreaking for the industry," says Guillory. "We weren't the first company in the world to do it, but we were one of the first. We knew that to get 3D printing to the next level it had to be faster, it had to be more cost-effective, and we had to have more materials to choose from."
The end numbers are disruptive: driving feedstock costs down by a factor of 10X while upping print speed by the same number.
Macy says it's exactly what made him jump at an opportunity to join Titan. "The pellet extrusion was a novel capability that broke the cost barrier on printer materials as well as the kind of materials we could try," he explains. "It just became an offer I could not refuse."
The company has since evolved beyond startup phase, he adds. "We're moving into industrial applications for customers where we map the solution to how 3D printing can solve their serial production problems. This is just something that's desperately needed in the industry. The current systems were born out of the prototyping industry, and it was really the customer's job to figure out how to get the box to work with their product, and all the boxes were basically the same. For us, we focus on the value proposition for the customer and deliver a configuration that maps in their application. From a price model and for ROI to the customer, that is incredibly important."
"We're truly a solutions provider," echoes Kasat. "What that means is we help the customer from ideation to implementation. If a customer has a question around whether a part could be 3D-printed or not or if 3D printing is the right technology for their production part or not, we work with them on that and help them redesign their part, select the right materials, make sure they get the best performance through the process and material combinations, and help them truly develop that application."
"Titan has established itself leading pellet extrusion technology. We are truly a pioneer in hybrid technology. We combine multiple different technologies on a single platform so a customer can get the best out of those technologies and get the best ROI."
Macy says open architecture in terms of materials and integration with other technology are huge selling points. "The proof in the pudding was the pellet extruder performed well with a wide range of materials, from the very very economical PLAs and ABSs all the way up through a serious round of engineered materials that are extruded at up to 400 degrees Celsius. That was a spectrum that no one else was pushing, and even most of the printers today struggle to get up to."
"The customer gets to now really configure their machine around the application," adds Macy. "They're not paying for anything they don't need, but they're getting everything that they need."
Customers -- who Kasat says are typically trying to make thousands of parts annually with Titan's machines -- include NOA Brands, PSSI, and the Triumph Group, as well as the U.S. government and military. Guillory says the U.S. Navy is using Titan's printers to manufacture target boats to test the accuracy of missiles and other projectiles. "If the boats get hit, they can recover what they can and the hopes are to be able to grind it up and reutilize it for pellet feedstock," he says.
Titan's team has worked to reduce lead times from 16 weeks to eight. "That doesn't happen overnight," says Kasat. "You've got to put the right people in the right place, and all the right processes."
"We manufacture our systems in-house," says Macy. "We're fully vertically integrated internally. We do source components from our local community."
Titan also offers 3D-printing services on a contract basis, accounting for 10 to 15 percent of company revenue.
Macy credits the Titan team for the company's successes. "They do an incredible job," he says. "It's a unique skill set of people that can produce a quality product with a constantly evolving and changing configuration for each customer. That's talent, and we recognize talent."
Challenges: CMO Maddie Guillory says the cancellation of major additive manufacturing trade shows made marketing harder for Titan. "We knew we had to pivot and find another way we could reach our customers,"she says. "We've done a couple of virtual events . . . and really just focused on how we can still connect with potential customers and those looking for our solutions virtually with webinars, with videos, with these virtual events."
"The second challenge, which is a good challenge to have, is we're growing very fast," adds Kasat. "As we grow and these opportunities come in, we must plan properly."
Opportunities: The pandemic has pushed for a broad reevaluation of the global supply chain, and that benefits Titan. "We have seen huge uptake," says Kasat. "People have started to look into local supply chains and alternate technologies." After hitting 30 percent sales growth in 2020, Titan's 2020 forecast is "at least 50 percent."
Titan's customers include a wide range of manufacturers in the aerospace, automotive, and consumer industries, along with the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies. "The common link between our customers is the people who are trying to take 3D printing onto the production floor," says Kasat. "People always ask us, 'How can you serve so many different industries?' We bring it down to the common denominator of early adopters and innovators in different industries who are trying to change the manufacturing with this Industry 4.0 technology, and they see Titan as the most viable solution to do that."
"I think the opportunities are unlimited," says Kasat. "We're going to continue to establish Titan not only in North America but globally."
"There's a unique opportunity to change the game here and make 3D printing and Titan's Atlas technology a production technology."
Adds Macy: "The polymer extrusion side, whether it's filament or pellet, has long been recognized for its affordability in prototyping, but it has been a little more difficult to get the right materials into the applications to justify true production parts. The pellet extrusion development that we've done at Titan Robotics has liberated a lot of these new materials that no one else can print."
Needs: "People and space are the two big needs for us," says Kasat, noting plans to add engineering and sales talent and expansion at the current headquarters. "If you have multiple locations in multiple parts of the city, it becomes inefficient."