Company that makes lightweight 3D printed components moves to Sterling Heights – Macomb Daily
When one of North America’s top 100 automotive suppliers decided it had outgrown its Macomb Township plant, company executives began looking for a home for their new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. .
They believe they have found such a home in Sterling Heights.
MacLean Additive, an Illinois-based startup that focuses on producing 3D printed components and tooling, held a grand opening event on Wednesday for the new location on 19 Mile Road, just outside west of Van Dyke Avenue, in an area known for its automotive industries.
“Employers like me have a choice to settle,” said MacLean President and CEO Duncan MacLean. “Other townships in Michigan have made it very difficult, so we’re moving them to others that make it easier to do business.”
The 97-year-old family business, which has 3,500 employees and facilities worldwide, including eight in metro Detroit, researched communities for a business-friendly environment.
“As for Sterling Heights, I said talk about the city and the government and how they run things,” MacLean said at the rally. “Do they have any incentives? Is this a place where we want to do long term business? Sterling Heights was one of the places we quickly fell in love with.
Mayor Michael Taylor said city employees speak the same innovative vocabulary and seek to partner with various businesses as it seeks to diversify its industrial base in the community of 134,000.
“That’s what we’re trying to do in this corridor north of Van Dyke. We are investing time, energy and money in developing a sense of community to make it a walkable downtown,” the mayor said.
Although the use of 3D printing has been significant in the aerospace industry, MacLean Additive officials say it is increasingly being used in automotive and other markets. Company says its Formetrix L-40 steel powder supports efforts to develop 3D versions of sustainable tooling product lines
Visitors to the 35,000 square foot building may notice that much of it is empty, but that’s only because MacLean Additive officials say they know there will eventually be a demand to fill it.
Officials say the 3D printing process is similar to drawing an image on a sheet of paper, then adding a sheet with the same image on it, and repeating the process until they have 3,000 layers. Each layer is about half the size of a human hair. Using laser-based technology, they melt steel powder to fill the tooling application.
Tools that are produced faster than before weigh much less than its predecessor. A part can be produced this morning and shipped to another country by tonight, MacLean officials say.
Officials say the “lean-to-weight” approach is huge in the automotive industry as it shifts towards manufacturing electric vehicles. The lighter the weight of a car, the more space there is available for batteries.
MacLean said its products are still at the top-secret stage until engineers can fully master the technology.
“Our first mission is to prove the technology we have and what we can do with it,” he said. “That’s not how a traditional engineer is trained like a 2D project, so we had to think about that.
“Once we understand the capacity of our equipment, the sky is the limit”
In an unrelated note, people attending Wednesday’s event were asked to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire. One of the company’s top executives was recently diagnosed with the virus while returning overseas and is self-quarantining.
It will go beyond cars, he says. 3D printing gives the designer complete design freedom without any of the geometric constraints of a traditional manufacturing process. You can add hardware exactly where you want, to build whatever you want
The facility’s initial products will be durable tools to support automotive manufacturing as well as the company’s patented high-performance steel material, Southwood said, followed by component production.