This Ohio Startup is the Next Innovator in Additive Manufacturing

How Skuld LLC is using lost foam casting to carve their niche in the world of manufacturing

A new era of technology has brought Ohio back into the forefront of manufacturing in America, as Buckeye State companies become experts in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. But those processes are still relatively new, and still being innovated. One company on the cutting edge of both the manufacturing and making that process more environmentally friendly is Gahanna-based Skuld LLC, foundry innovators saving manufacturers time and money.

“We’re an advanced manufacturing and materials company that does several different things,” CEO Sarah Jordan said. “Our main focus is on merging additive manufacturing with lost foam investment casting to bring together the benefits of both processes and solve the problems of both processes. We have patented IP around new materials that can be used in that process or regular lost foam casting, and we also do some traditional 3D printing.”

Lost foam casting is a process used to create complex metal pieces and parts by using molten metal to evaporate a foam mold. Jordan and Co-founder Mark DeBruin learned that tooling is a major pain point in additive manufacturing. To create an extremely specific tool for a process, it can cost a manufacturer anywhere from $250,000 to several million dollars. Jordan said they realized, “Who can pay $2 million for a tool?” and sought a solution. And the method they created is unique.

“In this specific space of combining additive and lost foam manufacturing, we have very little competition,” she said. “We know of some papers and some research out there, but I usually compare us to existing processes. And when you compare us to, say, 3D sand printing, we are less expensive and faster than that and we maintain ten times better tolerances. You don’t have to do much or any machining afterward, so that sets us apart from a common process. I’ve been told that traditional 3D printing costs ten times as much as normal, so we’re 90 percent cheaper than them, and it appears that our resulting material is the same as you’d get in conventional processes.”

Jordan said the method is the greenest possible casting process, which is one of her major motivators. To her, if there’s a method that can be less harmful to the environment, it should be prioritized.

“As an engineer — and just as a citizen — doing technology greener and more efficiently and smarter with our limited resources is important,” she said. “Because lost foam is the most efficient way to go from molten metal to your finished part in one step, instead of all these other ways that people developed out of necessity. That’s a big motivator: we can solve these environmental problems and do things in a smarter way.”

Now, the company has shown proof of concept in 10 different materials, from aluminum to steel to copper, and is in the process of signing on to multiple government projects. And from their Gahanna home, they’re in an ideal place to continue to build the business.

“In central Ohio, there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of groups set up to try to help startups,” Jordan said. “There are all kinds of networking events, trainings and places like Innovate New Albany or Rev1 with interesting programs. We’ve been able to do pitch competitions, which definitely help to refine your pitch, which is hard for a person deep in the weeds of the technology.”

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