After noting a skills gap in the additive manufacturing industry, Zac Holcomb decided to launch a company with two partners: Additive America. The aim of the startup is to advance the prosthetics industry deep into the digital manufacturing age. We had the opportunity to talk to Zac about this new company but also his unique vision of the market and how it is evolving!
3DN: Can you present yourself and your link with additive manufacturing?
My name is Zac Holcomb and I am a creative leader in additive manufacturing using the HP Multi Jet Fusion technology. I really enjoy engaging with engineers and manufacturing practitioners from a perspective where the old rules no longer apply. To watch someone who has been in the manufacturing industry have that moment where they realize the advantages of additive is a really gratifying thing for me and I really enjoy when they realize it and say “wow, I just needed to think outside the box.” And I love to remind them that they need to #ThinkOutsideTheMold!
I first got my start in 3D printing as a Stereolithography technician, programming builds on legacy 3D Systems machines such as the SLA-250 and SLA-3500. A lot of things learned in those early days contributed to having an open mind to try new things, even when older more experienced minds would snuff at ideas.
3DN: What is your vision of the industry? Can you give us some idea of how it’s changed over the last few years?
My vision of the 3D printing industry has a few different levels to it, but on the surface, I see there being a lot of digital manufacturing hubs located around the world. I see that as being one of the large benefits and impacts that it will have. Logistics companies should be shifting their focus into IP control and a commercialized way for companies to sell a license to print or manufacture a product. We can go really deep on this topic another day, but to sum it up, I think that we will get products from companies all over the world, manufactured at a digital manufacturing hub closest to my location. This will really change logistics and international duties and fees, until they catch-up!
It has been really cool to watch the industry evolve over the last few years, however, I kind of feel like we are coming back to a situation where everyone is just imitating each other again. I wish that companies would stay in their lane more as they grow and not try to bridge out into every technology just to say they offer it all. Remember what you are good at and good hard at it. I would like to see more of that and less of the idea that every business needs to offer everything at one time.
3DN: Can you tell us more about the startup you co-founded, Additive America?
Additive America is a company that I co-founded with Brent Wright and Paul Sugg. We see a huge skills gap in the industry right now. There is a relatively low number of qualified individuals in the additive manufacturing space that truly understand how to manipulate a workflow to best fit their needs. I think this is largely because a lot of folks have the perception that they do not have enough time in their schedule to stop dragging the cart and put some wheels under it.
Another issue that we found was that it is pretty hard to find a reliable supplier of additively manufactured parts. To find a place that combines the quality required for prosthetics, the surface finish quality, price, communication, and logistics, is very difficult. So, what we have set out to provide is an education-first business where we are really looking to educate our clients on how they can build a workflow that applies directly to their mission. With our experience in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics, we will be starting out education programs there. These programs will bring prosthetists from around the world to Kinston, NC for the training and access directly to our exact practices and we will continue that relationship with those folks for the duration of their manufacturing agreement with us. To provide support on the manufacturing side of things, we have invested into our own HP Multi Jet Fusion 4210 machine to provide the access to the technology that so many small businesses cannot afford.
The mission of this company is to advance the prosthetics industry deep into the digital manufacturing age by giving away all of our best practices and teaching each student that comes through our program how to provide a higher-quality prosthesis to their patient, ultimately increasing the quality of life for as many amputees as we possibly can reach. We feel that by providing quality training, continued access and support, and a solid backbone of digital manufacturing and best practices, we can really rise the water level for a lot of independently-owned practices that are still providing that more intimate level of care with their patients.
3DN: How does Additive America help companies with their 3D printing projects?
Additive America helps customers with several printing project similar to what was described above. Specifically, we have helped completely transform Eastpoint Prosthetics and Orthotics into an almost 100% digital workflow. This has included workflow development throughout several different processes by Brent Wright, who is a board certified prosthetist. These new methods have been tested and trained down throughout the company to get folks across several branch offices all onto the same page. Eastpoint will be completely digital by the beginning of 2020 as a result of this process and is one of the leading companies setting this example in the United States.
3DN: Have you seen a shift in the adoption rate of 3D printing by companies in recent years?
I have definitely seen more companies open up to the idea of putting a 3D printed part on an end-use product. We are getting there! Some industries are adopting things faster than others. I hear a lot about the auto industry finally catching up, but for years they lagged behind in my opinion. Medical industries seem to be the most likely to change and trying new things that have not necessarily been proven elsewhere just yet. Yet within the medical space there are still extremes as the dental industry is seemingly all-in with the digital manufacturing technology and here we are talking about how there is still this tremendous opportunity in prosthetics. So, it is all different, but I think the us giving the prosthetics industry a little boost will help things there.
3DN: Any projects, startups or initiatives in the 3D printing industry that have caught your eye recently?
In the spirit of updating and upgrading your workflow, I really like what I have seen from Link3D. They are really listening to the customer and are willing to fine tune anything to meet what the client is looking to achieve. Janet Kar and Kenny Pearson over there have always been really great to communicate with and have always been very supportive. That isn’t a paid advertisement either! I have actually never bought their product or used it for my own use, they are just genuinely great to work with and the product is very dynamic, which is key right now! A company to really keep an eye on as they help companies make heads or tails of this new way of doing things!
3DN: Any last words for our readers?
Try something new that everyone else around you is telling you won’t work. I would bet that they are wrong and you just haven’t proven it to yourself yet!
What do you think of Additive America’s mission? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Sign up for our free weekly Newsletter, all the latest news in 3D printing straight to your inbox!