By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, desktop manufacturing, and on-demand manufacturing, refers to processes developed over the past 20 years or so in which “printers” lay down thin layers of material, often a resinous liquid, according to a three-dimensional digital image file, gradually building up the product.
Detroit Free Press
Detroit used to be rich in tool-and-die shops, the small family-run firms that created specialized tools and gadgets to cut and shape metal in the automotive and other industries. Many of the hundreds of such small tool shops have gone out of business, but their modern equivalent is 3D printing, an industry that could thrive in Detroit with the metro area becoming a leader.
The Detroit area’s entry is a company called EnvisionTEC, based in Dearborn. Founded by Lebanese immigrant Al Siblani, the firm makes printers ranging in price from $10,000 to $1 million.
Those printers produce a varied and growing list of products — hearing aids, dental crowns, custom jewelry, skin grafts, automotive parts, and even characters used in SciFi and fantasy movies. EnvisionTEC sells into the commercial and industrial markets only, not to the consumer 3D market that has had its problems.
The holder of some 120 patents, Siblani is one of the next generation of Southeast Michigan entrepreneurs harnessing the latest technology to build a world-class business that remains under the radar in terms of public recognition.
“We continue to grow,” Siblani said last week at his headquarters. “In the last 18 months, we’ve doubled our manufacturing in California, we’ve doubled our manufacturing in Germany, we’ve doubled our number of people here in this building, and I think pretty soon we’re going to be out of space here. So it’s a very flourishing and growing business and we’re very happy the way it’s been going.”