Did You Know Fargo is at the Center of the 3D Printing World?

Written by: Brady Drake

Imagine being able to print a jig, component, or widget that you need for an important job. Imagine being able to make promotional items in-house. Imagine the endless possibilities that a 3D printer could bring to your office.

Now, realize that the largest US manufacturer of desktop 3D printers, LulzBot, is sitting right under your nose.

The well-known 3D printing brand was originally launched by Aleph Objects in Loveland, Colorado in 2011, but was purchased by Fargo Additive Manufacturing Equipment 3D, LLC in November 2019. Since then, FAME 3D has been growing the LulzBot brand from right here in the Red River Valley.

Printed on LulzBot

“We’re growing and hiring,” said President John Olhoft. “It’s an exciting technology. If people incorporate it into their business, they can get the same advantages as Ford and Boeing and that’s pretty powerful.”

“People really love to be able to implement mass customization in their products these days,” said Sierra Olhoft, LulzBot’s Head of Business Development. “3D printers help immensely with that.”

The thought of having an advantage like those companies might catch your attention. However, you might think your company isn’t big enough to have a 3D printer or that you wouldn’t even know where to start incorporating one into your business. That’s where the FAME 3D team can help. With pricing on machines running from $1,000 to $10,000, it is easy to justify having a LulzBot 3D printer.

“Before we ever sell to a company, we interview them pretty heavily on what they are trying to print. We want to make sure that they have the right materials and the right tool,” said John. “It’s also about making sure that they know what is capable with one of our 3D printers and what is not. If they aren’t sure but are interested, we will talk with them about their business to see if there’s an application.”

LulzBot’s newest release, the TAZ SideKick

What can 3D printers do?

After our visit to FAME 3D, we’re convinced that there aren’t many things 3D printers can’t do. Even the things that aren’t currently possible, don’t seem far off.

The printers used by LulzBot can make just about any shape imaginable. In fact, LulzBot relies on its own 3D printers to make 50% of the parts for more 3D printers. To do this LulzBot has a 300 printer “printer farm” operating and making parts for new printers constantly. Thankfully for them, LulzBot printers can print for 12,000 continuous hours before they need to even be evaluated for overhaul. This print farm produces millions of parts every year.

This ability to create 50% oftheir parts in-house offers the LulzBot team a number of advantages especially when it comes to product development. Their most recent release, the TAZ SideKick, took just eight months to develop.

According to the team at LulzBot, a normal product development cycle like this could take years.

“It’s such a huge advancement having that manufacturing capability in-house,” said John. “Because we can print our own parts, it’s very easy to create prototypes for our development team, get their feedback, then make modifications and improvements.”

Why Fargo?

LulzBot President John Olhoft

We’ve got a really great entrepreneurial scene and spirit here. There’s a real can do it attitude present in the community. We’re really not afraid to look at how we can improve a process’s efficiency, whereas some offshore companies just throw labor at a problem.

There’s a lot of manufacturing happening in Fargo, so the forward-thinking mindset people have here is a plus. A lot of good engineers come out of the schools that are here.

Everyone in our ownership group is from Fargo. We like Fargo and are happy to be a part of it. John Olhoft, President, LulzBot

During our visit, we also learned that 3D printers can print artery walls. How cool is that!?
Now, they can only be used for research at the moment, but they aren’t far off.
A printed artery wall.

Another medical application that Cooper Bierscheid, LulzBot’s Director of Engineering and Founder of Protosthetics, has been trying to address is the need for prosthetics and orthotics.

“Our mission is to find ways to manufacture these things more efficiently,” said Bierscheid. “LulzBot 3D printers have allowed us to implement a digital workflow that utilizes 3D scanning to remotely manufacture custom prosthetics and orthotics for clinics across the United States. Before this patients would have to wait weeks in order to get customized products.”

With all of these applications, FAME 3D and LulzBot may just be our area’s best-kept secrets.

To learn more visit LulzBot.com

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.