Company uses technology to empower businesses and revolutionize tech
Even when 3D printing began to make its way into mainstream culture, the process itself seemed alien, like something out of a science fiction movie. Fast forward to today, and companies like Youngstown-based Freshmade 3D aren’t only using 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, for traditional projects like the production of tools or auto parts. Instead, the company has widened their approach to provide access and innovation within the world of the arts.
“Freshmade 3D offers a variety of digital manufacturing services from 3D scanning, reverse engineering, and a technique we call AMCLad, where we have the capability to 3D print medium-to large parts at a lower cost,” said Rich Wetzel, co-founder. “A challenge in the industry right now is that a lot of companies are interested in transitioning to 3D technology but don’t have the background or a properly trained workforce. And that’s where we come in — to test the technology and understand how they would apply it to their business or artistic endeavors.”
Where industrial 3D printers can cost upwards of $1 million, Freshmade 3D’s clients have access to the expertise and technology for a range of industry needs without having to purchase their own equipment. Wetzel and his team provide services to everyone from manufacturers to digital sculptors and architectural firms.
“Technology is having more of an impact on how these companies design or build solutions than ever before,” said Wetzel. “They want to stay competitive, so they have to be willing to adopt new technology. With 3D printing, you have more design freedom, and that lends itself to creating new objects with new customizations.”
For some of these companies, staying ahead of the technology curve means the opportunity to provide new, accessible experiences. For museums in particular, Freshmade 3D is hoping to use their printing technology to touch and interact with artwork in different ways.
“The artistic and experiential applications of this technology really interest us right now,” said Wetzel. “When people can touch and understand what a piece of art is doing, you can create a whole new experience for them that allows them to interact with art on a more personal level.”
3D relief art isn’t Freshmade 3D’s first foray into the sculptural realm. Although they started out manufacturing rare car parts, they saw an opportunity to jump on a new challenge when they were commissioned by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber to make two life-size bobbleheads of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for the 2016 presidential campaign. The 7-foot-tall sculptures required Freshmade 3D to develop their AMCLad technology, which uses sand in its low-cost, large-scale printing process.
In addition to generating quite the buzz, the bobbleheads also cemented Freshmade 3D’s status as a tech innovator in the region, and they sought further support and mentorship from the Youngstown Business Incubator, a partner of Ohio Third Frontier.
“I started my career working for YBI in their additive manufacturing department,” said Wetzel, “Then, when I co-launched the business, that relationship became even more valuable. They’ve provided so much support in terms of getting an affordable office space, making connections and learning from their entrepreneurs in residence. They constantly provide us with guidance, which opens doors that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. We’re truly grateful to be part of that organization and for everything they’ve done for us.”