Indy-based 3D printer lands incentives for expansion

State officials are offering $700,000 in economic development incentives to Indianapolis-based 3D Parts Manufacturing LLC based on its plans to expand and hire 65 workers by 2018.

Launched in January, 3D Parts Manufacturing has joined a recent surge in rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing operations known as 3D printers. In May, IBJ detailed the firm’s $725,000 startup and its plans to grow operations.

Those plans include investing $6 million to lease and equip 25,000 square feet of operations space and hiring 65 workers by 2018, when it expects to generate $20 million in annual revenue. 3D Parts Manufacturing is filling manufacturing and engineering positions.

Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered the firm up to $625,000 in conditional tax credits and $75,000 in training grants based on job creation. The tax credits are performance-based, meaning they cannot be claimed until workers are hired.

“Manufacturing is a team sport,” said founder Kim Brand. “In a world accustomed to success stories in the software and services businesses, we want to make manufacturing cool again."

The firm is located at 1011 E. St. Clair St. downtown. Brand said Thursday morning that the company was hunting for a larger space.

The company produces metal, plastic and composite parts for the medical, aerospace, automotive, defense and plastic molding industries. The process works through selective laser sintering and Polyjet additive manufacturing technologies.

Rather than screwing and gluing parts together, operators plug digital designs into machines that shape plastic and metal powders from the bottom up, one microscopic level at a time. Several hours later, a prototype or part is ready for use.

Brand, who launched the company alongside his son, Adam Brand, and longtime business associate, Alan Michel, likened 3D printing’s potential to the microprocessor boom that gave rise to the personal computer.

“There’s going to be this revolution, and I believe it’s going to be very similar to when I graduated college in 1975,” said Brand, whose career has mostly focused on information technology, including running two IT companies. “We were handed this technology, microprocessors. We didn’t really have any notion of what would happen.”

The technology in 3D printing has been around for close to 30 years. More than 100 companies already offer some form of the manufacturing service in Indiana, according to listings with Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.

But recent attention has sped up its evolution, meaning demand will likely spike and costs will come down, said Tim Gornet, manager of Rapid Prototyping Center Operations at the University of Louisville.

"The big advantage that we’ve always had as a country, we tend to be early adopters of new technologies in the U.S.,” Gornet said. “So we’re willing to push the envelope. That’s something we need to take advantage of.”

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