Industry: Industrial & Contract
Products: Industrial design, mechanical engineering and 3D printing services
Founder and Director Jeffrey Jakubowski plans to grow his 3D-printing startup with equipment purchases and a targeted plan.
With 26 years in the additive manufacturing industry, Jakubowski has seen the evolution of 3D printing firsthand. "I started working for Philips Consumer Electronics out of Tennessee in 1991," he recalls. "We had serial number 003 of the first commercial 3D printers ever put out in the industry. I have a long, extensive history with using 3D printing to facilitate a variety of roles, from design and engineering to manufacturing."
After many years teaching other professionals about additive manufacturing as an account manager for a large 3D printing company out of Los Angeles, Jakubowski decided to start iFuzion as a side project. With his then-employer's blessing, he began taking their customers' multiple assemblies and using his additive manufacturing knowledge for part consolidation and weight reduction.
"Basically, I would show them physically how they could better their designs to cater towards the additive manufacturing process," he says. When he eventually left his full-time role to focus on iFuzion, he had a particular goal in mind: become a high-end, value add service provider.
"About five years ago, the two major players in the industry, Stratasys and 3D Systems, were buying up service bureaus that were using their equipment," he explains. "This caused the professional additive manufacturing industry to shrink a lot. At the same time, we had the beginning of the maker revolution. People were buying cheap 3D printers and a lot of mom and pop companies were popping up and offering 3D printing services with lower end equipment."
Jakubowski chose to go another way, buying a Stratasys Fortus 900mc. "It's the largest commercial 3D printer currently available," he says. "It cost a half million dollars and prints 36-inch by 24-inch by 36-inch parts. It's huge, and it's capable of printing production grade components."
Jakubowski is also the proud owner of an Objet Eden260VS. Altogether, seven 3D printers enable iFuzion to run thermoplastics -- such as ABS-M30, PC-ABS, ULTEM 9085 and polycarbonate -- as well as photopolymers including digital ABS and Vero in their 1,600-square-foot facility.
He's planning to purchase additional equipment to meet growing demand. "We're expecting our additive services to grow tremendously in 2017," Jakubowski says. "We currently offer 3D metal printing services through a partner, so we can print metal components in stainless steel, titanium and an alloy called Inconel. We're looking to add those types of technologies to our portfolio this year in-house."
In addition to additive manufacturing, iFuzion provides clients such as Johnson & Johnson, ViaSat, Reference Technologies, Caterpillar, Boeing, Blendtec, and Zodiac Aerospace with industrial design, mechanical engineering, and CFD and FEA analysis services. "We're a full-service company from design and engineering to analysis and manufacturing," says Jakubowski.
"Our market is heavily loaded on the aerospace industry," he continues. "I serve on the board of directors for the Rocky Mountain chapter of the AUVSI [Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International], so I'm heavily involved in unmanned aerial vehicles in general. We have a couple contracts designing military-grade drones and use additive manufacturing in those platforms. Not only do we design the vehicle, but also design components specifically for the additive process, as well as manufacture those parts."
Challenges: Jakubowski says funding is iFuzion's biggest current challenge. "I still consider us a startup, as I didn't leave my job as a director for an aerospace company to focus solely on iFuzion until January of 2015," he explains. "So, we're really only about two and a half years into this and continuing to look for funding because the equipment is really expensive."
Obtaining certifications -- such as for the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) Compliance the U.S. government requires for the manufacture of defense articles and services -- is also costly.
"Colorado is a very advantageous location for us because we have the largest aerospace community in the country here," Jakubowski continues. "However, they are looking for lots of certifications, qualifications and regulations -- and we have to have them just to be able to quote a project. It all costs a lot of money. And things like becoming ISO-compliant, which we eventually want to do, often require a full-time employee dedicated to that management. We're not nearly ready for that yet."
Opportunities: "Supporting non-critical hardware in the aerospace community is our biggest opportunity right now," says Jakubowski. He sees a place for iFuzion in the manufacture of the tooling aids, fixtures and jigs that aerospace companies use to hold complex parts and components during the assembly process. "That doesn't require us to be ISO-certified or have all the regulations tied up because we'd be manufacturing non-flight critical components."
Needs: "We're looking to grow," concludes Jakubowski. "We need more projects under our belt and a marketing campaign. We plan to put one together this year, because everything we've done so far has been word of mouth."