Wohlers Associates just reported on a 400% growth for the global 3D additive manufacturing industry over the next four years and one company in Michigan may be the best representation of this growth trend. Linear Mold & Engineering, currently one of the largest metal additive manufacturing services providers in North America, is quintupling its direct metal additive manufacturing capabilities, adding up 32 more systems over the next few years, to the 9 already in place: a 400+% growth.
Not very “linear” at all, for a company born in 2003, in the midst of the manufacturing crisis that drove the Michigan economy into a tailspin. The company’s founder, still president and owner, John Tenbusch, realized there was still a need in the local automotive industry for niche manufacturers of rapid tooling.
After acquiring the first additive manufacturing system, an EOSINT M270, in 2005, Linear has had continuous growth over the past 11 years. It currently operates out of three buildings in Livonia, MI, employs around 100 people and is a shining example of how a company can not just survive but also grow and succeed, creating qualified jobs and infinite new opportunities by investing in advanced manufacturing technologies.
Linear Mold & Engineering plans to expand its 24,000 square foot (over 2.200 square meters) facility in Livonia, Michigan, by 17,000 square feet (close to 2000 square meters), making room for additional DMLS and SLM machines, with dedicated space for a total of 32 more machines. There will also be room for a metal additive manufacturing training center, expanded post processing stations and expanded tooling & mold making operations.
“This – as John Tenbusch, President of Linear, explained – is phase 1 of the largest expansion in Linear’s 11-year history and is designed to maintain and extend Linear’s DMLS Leadership in North America.
As of this moment two of the new machines have been delivered – an EOS M280 and a dual laser SLM280, by SLM Solutions, adding to Linear’s existing metal additive manufacturing capabilities comprising four ESOINT 270, three EOSINT 280 and the SLM280 hq.
These, in combination with an extensive park of more traditional manufacturing and finishing machinery, such as CNC & EDM, a mold shop, polyurethane foam dispensing and injection molding equipment are used by Linear to design and build 3D printed conformal cooling channels for injection molds for the mold making industry.
The main growth segment for the company, however, is supply chain optimization via the design and build of metal 3D printed production solutions for the Automotive, Aerospace & Defense, Energy, Medical Devices, and CPG industries.
Linear’s example, in a location where the traditional economy is still struggling, demonstrates that 3D printing not only offers a ray of hope for a better future (and in some parts of the world, such as Italy, that is sorely needed right now) but is also potentially – and if appropriately combined with more planet-friendly energy supply dynamics – the only path to a more socially sustainable world.