Broadalbin Company Succeeds With 3D Printing | News, Sports, Jobs
By Charles Erickson
For the Leader-Herald
BROADALBIN – Julie Benware understands that her storefront may be one of the region’s smallest manufacturing operations, even though she refers to her production as “impression.”
Since it opened at 22 N. Main St. last January, various passers-by have come inside to ask Benware about the dice towers, chess pieces and other items that are crafted here.
“People will ask how long it will take to print a dice tower”, she said recently. “But 3D printing is very slow. Very slow. It could take 36 hours.
Benware owns BIT Solutions, a computer repair and training provider that it founded in Saratoga Springs in 2003 as Benware Information Technology.
Orders for repairs and training services are not common these days, she said, but work remains sustained in BIT Solutions’ 3D printing division.
“I have a lot of regular customers” she says, displaying one of the piggy banks she manufactures under a subcontract from a German company for distribution to customers in the United States. Piggy banks, made up of the letters of a person’s first name, are hollow and contain a slot for emptying the bank.
This bank, who said “RYLAN”, took about eight hours to manufacture, she says. Longer names may take half a day to print.
Benware bought its first 3D printer in 2014, a year after seeing one on display at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. There, in a place known for its rides, food, and farming exhibits, she watched the small machine slowly render a stencil from filament yarn pulled from a spool. The stencil was made, one layer at a time, as the plastic of the filament was melted and set in place by the back and forth movements of the printer.
The first printer put online by BIT Solutions had a print area of 6 x 6 x 6 inches. Benware began to advertise its services online and soon began to receive orders for making checkers and other small items. The printer has been running for many hours every day.
“I never had time to print what I wanted to print, so I bought a second machine” Benware said. She now has 15 devices. The larger one has a print area of 20 x 20 x 20 inches.
When a metal shaft is placed on a lathe, turned and cut, the process is known as “Subtractive” manufacturing. In order for the part to meet a design specification, the lathe cuts unnecessary metal from the shaft.
With 3D printers, manufacturing is “additive.” Moving back and forth like an old computer dot matrix printer, 3D printers lay down strips of hot filament until an element is the shape you want.
“Each layer cools very quickly” Benware explained. “It’s hot and it melts and then it cools down at the same time, so all the layers kind of bond together.”
The filaments are of different colors and are made of different materials. Benware mainly prints with PLA or polyactic acid.
“PLA is made from corn and soy”, she said. “When you start printing, it smells like syrup. “
The other filaments used in the Broadalbin store are made of ABS, a tough plastic commonly used in the production of toys and automotive interior parts. The material was used to place an order for a hospital in the area, which requested redesigned ABS shower drain covers and faucets.
Benware works at Staples in Saratoga Springs, where she works as a computer technician. She doesn’t need to keep bank hours at BIT Solutions’ 3D printing division, which has posted hours but isn’t really a retail business. Benware moved to Broadalbin to be closer to his parents. The printers operate frequently during the night hours and most of the shop’s work is for customers outside of the Mohawk Valley. On the Etsy e-commerce site, Benware sells under the name Bits3DandPieces.
Computer programs direct the movements of a 3D printer. Benware uses CAD or computer aided design software to design some of the products. For others, such as banks, it has permission to use files created elsewhere.
All drawings must be “sliced” by another computer program so that 3D printers can be instructed on how to construct the object.
“He cuts out the whole model, line by line” said Benware. “And then this program is hooked up to the printer and the printer knows where it needs to go, every line. “
Benware printers are fusion deposition modeling machines, or FDMs. Other types of 3D printers can render objects made of resin or even metal.
PLA and ABS filaments are inexpensive. Benware charges $ 3 to design and print the cookie cutters a young man uses for his dog cookie business. She gets $ 2 for duplicate cutters. The dice rounds are priced at $ 35.
She made a replacement bezel for a 1932 Nash automobile and pre-production prototypes for the inventor of a Christmas tree watering system.
Benware is proud of what she has learned about the production side of 3D printing. Raising the bank, the one made up of letters “RYLAN”, she noted how the slicing program provides instructions to the printer, but it does not guarantee how the materials will act when an object is being manufactured. She had many rejections in the early years.
“This is one of the most difficult things to do with a print, because it prints intaglio all the way up,” she said. “When it gets to the top layer you have to change your settings because it literally goes through an open space and it’s hot plastic and you have to stop pushing so much plastic and speed up the printhead a little bit to get it all going.” the way through and touches both ends and cools down before it can sag.
Other requests, much simpler in design, presented Benware with other challenges.
A woman from Texas wanted to buy stencils designed to look like the famous Google logo. Benware made one, as a prototype, but thought it over and reached out to the woman to tell her she didn’t want the search engine giant’s lawyers going after a small factory storefront for use. unauthorized brand.
“She turned around and sent me her Google credentials,” said Benware. “She worked for Google. She wanted to donate these stencils at a picnic they were organizing. A few days later, the stencils made in Broadalbin were shipped to a grateful customer in Austin.