Plural AM Brings Low-Cost Additive Manufacturing to North America
Roopinder Tara posted on April 06, 2016 |
Portland’s Plural AM adopts 3ntr’s industrial 3D printing technology for engineering, prototyping an...

Industrial 3D printer manufacturers may have cornered the market, but a new breed of 3D printers seek to undercut large, established players with pro-grade components and the use of third-party filaments. These brands have been slow to make their presence known worldwide, but Portland’s Plural Additive Manufacturing (Plural AM) has stepped in to bring at least one industrial manufacturer to the United States. As a systems and servicing provider of 3ntr 3D printers from Italy, Plural AM is hoping to bring additive manufacturing capabilities to businesses in North America.

To tackle the need for low-cost, low-volume parts, Plural AM has emerged as a supplier of industrial-grade 3D printers. The firm was incorporated in 2015 by a group of industry veterans with backgrounds in rapid prototyping, product design and the general high-tech industry. Although 3D printing has been used for rapid prototyping purposes since its inception in the mid-1980s, Plural AM’s goal is to facilitate the shift of firms from the use of the technology for these purposes to the AM of end use parts.

A 3D-printed component produced on a 3ntr 3D printer. (Image courtesy of Plural AM.)
A 3D-printed component produced on a 3ntr 3D printer. (Image courtesy of Plural AM.)

As Ed Israel, cofounder of Plural AM, elaborated, “The terms 3D printing and AM are often used interchangeably. The fact is, AM includes 3D printing but also much more in order to cost-effectively deliver small to mid-size volumes of plastic parts. When looked at as a lean process, the full potential of AM can be reached.”

To do so, Plural AM steps in to introduce businesses to 3D printing products specifically for additive manufacturing. In addition to introducing clients to their industrial-grade 3D printers and industrial-grade thermoplastics, the company is able to lend support and knowledge along the way. Tom McKasson, CEO and cofounder of Plural AM,spoke to this: “Introducing AM into companies opens the door to rethinking everything from part and product design to optimizing inventory, spare parts and supply chain management, as well as the always-essential time-to-market metric.” He added, “Today, the main drivers for manufacturing solutions are design suitability and cost per part. Plural AM’s case studies indicate that—relative to traditional machining, injection molding and rapid prototyping suppliers—their AM process can save an average of 50 percent. Plural AM has so far not been much more than an unfulfilled promise (with the exception of a few high-cost applications for aerospace, medical and automotive). Plural AM’s mission is to bring the benefits of AM to anyone requiring small to mid-size volumes of plastic parts.”

The backbone of Plural AM’s fabrication capabilities is a 3D printing system from an Italian company called 3ntr. Though the company has been in existence for over five years  its industrial-grade machines have not been brought to the United States until now. After signing an agreement with 3ntr, Plural AM has become the exclusive technology partner for the Italian firm in the United States.

The A2v2 and A4v3 3D printers from 3ntr, capable of high-temperature extrusion for a wide variety of materials. (Image courtesy of Plural AM.)
The A2v2 and A4v3 3D printers from 3ntr, capable of high-temperature extrusion for a wide variety of materials. (Image courtesy of Plural AM.)

Created through the work of engineer and CEO Davide Ardizzoia, 3ntr’s two industrial products, the A2v2 and A4v3, are unique to the 3D printing market due to their robust steel frames, specialty extruders and overall production-focused design. Both models are equipped with three nozzles for multi-material and soluble-support 3D printing. Their liquid-cooled, all-metal print heads allow for the 3D printing of industrial-grade materials, including high-temperature, water-clear and FDA-approved polymers. A HEPA filtration system also results in a particle- and odor-free work environment. It should also be noted that the A2v2, in particular, has a very substantial build volume of 610 x 350 x 500 mm (24 x 13.77 x 19.7 in). Using 3ntr’s technology, Plural AM has access to cost-effective, industrial-grade thermoplastic 3D printing with which to provide its clients.

As Ardizzoia said of the partnership with Plural AM, “We are thrilled to have met the Plural AM team. It was perfect timing. Our machines are well tested and producing high-quality parts. All the months and years spent polishing our solutions are now ready to benefit U.S. customers. From what I have seen of Plural AM, we have found the perfect partnership to work with in possibly the biggest AM market in the western world. A partnership with Tom and Ed will be a turning point in our history.”

As the 3D printing industry continues its evolution, new companies like Plural AM must adopt novel strategies to survive. By adopting 3ntr 3D printers in their portfolio of additive manufacturing machines, Plural AM may have found that strategy.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect Plural AM’s business as a systems and servicing provider, rather than as a 3D printing service bureau, as it was previously described.

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