Two other highlights of my first day in Detroit were visits to Roush and eos. Being familiar with both companies, I was excited to take a look inside their facilities.
First up was Roush. A solid performer in the racing world, it still carries the most wins than any other team in history. On top of being good at what it does, Roush started winning early and expanded into multiple types of racing. Today Roush may be best known for its racing performance parts. However, this is only a smaller part of a large, diverse company.
Next we visited eos, a company manufacturing 3D printers for metal and plastic. The company offers a lot of experience as the founder, Dr. Hans Langer, has been working on 3D printing since the filing of the first patents. Since then this company has expanded into multiple additive processes and is one of top 3D printing manufacturers today. Moving to Detroit has helped eos expand into the city’s robust and booming automotive and aerospace markets.
Many of the eos machines I saw in other factories were the metal printers. However, some of the powder plastic printers are popular to prototype intake manifold duct work before investing in the large mold often associate with these parts.
Jack Roush began his automotive career as an engine development engineer for Ford Motor Company in 1964. He soon discovered a passion for drag racing and formed his own team in 1970 with partner Wayne Gapp. The duo went on to win multiple championships in AHRA, NHRA, and IHRA Pro Stock drag racing over the next five years.
Combining engineering with entrepreneurship, Roush founded Roush Performance Engineering in 1976 and began selling designs he had created for his own team to the wider world of motorsport. His tenacious, solutions-based approach brought great demand for Roush engines and components for drag, oval-track, hill-climb racing, and offshore power boats.
Today, Roush is still producing performance parts but has expanded into much more. The company has invested in producing functional prototypes and high-production components across the aerospace, automotive, consumer products, defense, entertainment, alternative energy, and oil and gas markets. Many of Roush’s projects are classified—one of the reasons why I don’t have an images for this tour—but trust me, it had a lot of toys under one roof.
Roush’s facilities include everything a traditional shop of this size needs, and it is staying on top of new innovations. For example, Roush serves customer’s additive manufacturing (AM) needs with functional components grown on FDM, SLA, SLS, and DMLS. The company can offer parts made with materials such as:
- Aluminum, titanium, steel, stainless steel, and Inconel
- ABS, polycarbonate, polypropylene, and Ultem
- Nylon, glass-filled nylon, and carbon fiber-filled nylon
This is just part of Roush’s materials selection. One of the biggest causes for this diversity was the recession. In fact, today Universal and Disney are some of Roush’s biggest customers. Roush also has Clean Tech that works to convert vehicles from gas to propane, and even a cryogenic fuel program with the military.
When the million-dollar question was asked—why Detroit?—I got the same answer as the other companies: Detroit has the talent and ability. As Roush moves into AM, Detroit will continue to be the company’s focus as many of the AM manufacturers are in Michigan. However, as with many locations, even Detroit feels the skills gap widening. My tour guide casually mentioned that if I could get him 500 people, from technicians to engineers, he’d hire them today.
Roush started with Ford, and it still has a strong presence in the Ford community for its performance parts.
On my way to my next stop, eos, I pondered that skills gap issue and its potential to hinder company growth. However, Michigan’s labor force includes a nationally ranked, high-skilled job concentration of electrical, mechanical, and industrial engineers. In addition, Michigan is aimed at preparing students for in-demand skilled-trade jobs, which is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the next 5 to 10 years. The government has backed this with a $50 million investment for equipment and training to mitigate the skills gap, With the growing use of 3D printing, training a labor force with additive skills now may be needed to keep 3D printing growing.
Electro Optical Systems (eos)
Eos is a global technology leader for industrial 3D printing of metal and polymers. Founded in 1989, the independent company is a pioneer and innovator of AM solutions. Many of the companies I’ve visited while in Detroit had a mix of brands, but eos had a strong presence. Why? Generally speaking, according to the other companies I posed this question to, the answer lies in the machines’ price point, accuracy, and tolerances. Add to that one more reason: the company’s location. Eos could send over a mechanic in a few hours, or if the machine needed to go to the shop, an employee could be over in a couple hours with a truck.
Founded In 1989, eos is a pioneer and world leader in the field of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and the provider of a leading polymer technology. Learn more about the company and some milestones in its history with this timeline.
AM machines can be expensive, and every hour they are not working—whether sitting idle without work, down for maintenance, or having something fixed—the company is losing money. This close proximity and eos’ technology gives the company a leg up. This is also why eos has its factory here: the concentration of skills, and customers.
3D printing is leading to new capabilities that is changing industries. Even large metal parts can be 3D printed for prototyping and testing to speed up development. As these processes increase speeds and resolution, some companies are using different 3D printing techniques to go beyond prototyping and make production parts.
In our next installment, I visit WeDoo, an international digital company specializing in experience design, virtual and augmented reality, product configuration systems, and software development.