This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Welcome to Silicon Valley, Rensselaer

When I returned to Rensselaer this past week, I found an invitation to a soft open-house event on my answering machine. Returning the call, I discovered that the event had taken place while I was out of town but that I was still welcome to stop by and see what was happening in the back end of the Jordan Floral Building.

The space that was most recently Curves is being remodeled and it is in a very unfinished state. In the window is a row of vases. I wondered why they were there.
What immediately caught my attention was a machine with three arms controlling a print head. I have heard about 3-D printing and how it has the potential to change our lives, but I have never before seen a 3-D printer.
Yes, those vases in the window were printed by a 3-D printer. The printer shown above cost about $1000 but had taken an engineer familiar with building electronic devices 40 hours to assemble. The machine also required frequent calibration, something that also requires some expertise.

The company is run by two Kasparian brothers. Ron, the older, also runs a trucking company about six miles north of Rensselaer with the name "How About That". He has chosen a similarly confusing name for this venture, "You'll Never Guess". The name has led to some "Who's on First" types of conversations over the phone.

Saleman: What is the name of your company?
Erik: You'll Never Guess.
Salesman: I do not want to guess. Tell me the name.
Erik: You'll Never Guess.
Saleman: Either tell me the name or I will hang up.
Erik: You'll Never Guess.
Click, as the salesman hangs up.

At this point I was still trying to figure out what the focus of the company was. Then they showed me a second printer, one that was much larger. This printer was designed by Erik Kasperian, who has an engineering degree from Purdue and who studied 3-D printing as a student. The printer had just started a job that will be a plastic urn for the ashes of a pet dog. Not only will it be cheaper than a generic urn, but it will be personalized.

The unique feature of this printer, which is their third prototype, is that the heat plate, needed in all 3-D printers, is not one plate but sixteen separate plates. For small jobs only one plate needs to be turned on, but if the job is larger, more plates can be turned on. (Current technology for 3-D printing requires a hot base.) The company has a patent pending for this design. The plastic pieces for this printer were made by a 3-D printer; all the other components are readily available from various sources.
In a back room I saw the fourth prototype, which is very similar in appearance to the third. Their goal is to sell printers, though they are not quite there and are not yet taking orders. When they begin selling, they will have to hire a few more people to assemble them. Currently a 3-D printer the size of the one above costs about $45,000. They plan to sell at a fraction of that price--their design innovations allow that.

What is the market? 3-D printers are currently used to prototype objects. If you are designing any new machine that has plastic parts, you need to manufacture those parts to test the machine. 3-D printing is far faster and cheaper than any other way of producing these parts. 3-D printers may open opportunities for small businesses making niche products. A bigger use may be for replacement parts. When a part wears out, making another may be cheaper and faster than ordering it. Stores with a 3-D printer and a library of part designs would be able to reduce their inventories.

Looking at this, I think of how printing on demand has changed the publishing industry. Years ago Dover published two maze books I designed. The second did not sell well so Dover lost interest in me. I wanted to try the idea again when I retired and was searching for a way to minimize my cost when I discovered print on demand. With print on demand there are no fixed costs and no inventory. You upload your print files as pdfs to the manufacturer, in my case createspace, and if no one buys the book, there is no cost at all. That cost structure was fortunate in my case because all the maze books I designed have sold poorly, though they were a lot of fun to create. Today anyone with an idea and the ability to lay out the manuscript can publish a book at virtually no cost.

The object that the first printer was making were battery adapters, a way of using an AA battery in place of a C battery. If you need a C battery for a device that you rarely use, you will use only part of the potential of the battery before it goes bad and corrodes. Using an AA battery instead will be cheaper and result in less toxic waste going to the landfill.

For more information about the company, visit their website at

3-D printing will change our world. It will be exciting if this local company plays a significant role in that change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, again, Rensselaer Adventures for informing me of what's going on in Rensselaer. AND, in this case, interesting, informative info about 3D printing.