3-D Transforming Business

by Linda Capcara

DustRam inside a 3-D printer that just finished printing and is about to go into assembly.

Jack King, founder and CEO of DustRam LLC, has spent his entire career in flooring, and, 15 years ago, founded Arizona Home Floors, LLC. In 2008, high-end  flooring took a huge hit when the market for new housing construction collapsed. Since remodeling became the only game in town, he went to work on an invention for dust-free tile removal. After several prototypes and iterations, his invention was perfected and DustRam LLC was formed as a stand-alone company. The revolutionary DustRam® product consists of a head piece that allows a chisel to fit through an opening at the mouth, while leaving space to vacuum simultaneously. DustRam LLC remains the only dust-free tile removal company, and certified flooring contractors across the country make use of DustRam products.

Real-Use Application of 3-D Printing

The original DustRam head was a piece of solid metal. It was effective, but expensive and very heavy to work with for multiple hours, especially when removing tile or stone 15 feet overhead. DustRam’s lead engineer, Michael Hadley, suggested working with Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, Inc. to design and 3-D print a plastic version. King was apprehensive, but worked with PADT on a single-piece, nylon 3-D printed prototype of the DustRam. The prototype was taken on a test run at a difficult job and, despite King’s prediction that it wouldn’t hold up to the physical stress of dust-free tile removal for even a day of use, it proved to be both rugged and dependable. It was eye-opening for King.

A fully assembled DustRam with 3-D printed nozzle head.

PADT principal and co-owner Eric Miller points to this as a great example of practical, low-volume application of 3-D printing. “In Jack’s case,” he says, “3-D printing and the high-quality plastic materials we can produce became a significant low-cost upgrade over manufacturing the metal DustRam head.”

This stood in stark contrast to a recent experience King had with traditional methods of manufacturing a prototype. While working on developing an industrial-grade chisel to join the DustRam product line for use on massive tile removal jobs, DustRam LLC designed the product and paid $25,000 to manufacture a high-grade, metal, fully functioning prototype. Unfortunately, within three minutes, the chisel shook itself to pieces and became totally useless. King took it apart and found the design flaw, and then needed to repeat the expensive prototyping process.

From Prototyping to Manufacturing

Once hooked on 3-D printing, King decided to make 3-D manufacturing part of his own business. He purchased a Stratasys Fortus 450 MC Printer from PADT to 3-D print his own prototypes. But, after seeing how rugged the prototype was, he knew he could also use 3-D printing to manufacture low volumes of the DustRam.

The metal DustRam® head took five months to produce, sold for $8,000 and weighed 12 pounds. The 3-D printed part could be produced in about 50 hours, sold for $2,030 and weighed less than three pounds. The cost, time and labor savings were significant. The 3-D printed material also allowed contractors using the DustRam equipment to work faster and more efficiently, as the lighter plastic heads were easier to maneuver and handle for longer periods of time.

 

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