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Continued: Small-shop hiring fueled by 3-D printers and iPhone tools

  • Article by: JEFF GREEN , Bloomberg News
  • Last update: November 10, 2013 - 2:00 PM

A key tool for his business is the MakerBot Replicator 2, a 3-D printer priced at $2,199 that creates computer-programmed shapes out of plastic, Moberg said.

MakerBot of New York was acquired by Eden Prairie-based Stratasys Ltd. in June for $403 million in what analysts called an offensive acquisition of the desktop 3-D printer. That’s because MakeBot’s relatively inexpensive machines give Stratasys access to the booming market for smaller 3-D printers.

Before the MarketBot deal, Stratasys had specialized in larger and pricier 3-D replicating machines.

Last year, SnowShoe was paying a traditional machine shop about $70 apiece to have small stamps milled out of aluminum, each with a unique shape, that could be pressed on a phone or tablet touch screen to verify identity, he said. On a MakerBot, they cost 17 cents each. The company now owns three machines, which running 24 hours a day can churn out about 300 parts, he said.

When he needs more capacity, he rents it from a company in Denver that runs a sort of MakerBot “farm” with multiple machines available for custom orders in one location, he said.

This is where traditional machine shops, enhanced with technology like the 3-D printers, thrive, Minnesota shop owner Baklund said.

The world of technology-enabled manufacturing continues to surprise Doom, the new machinist said. A year ago he was working at a farm, milking and breeding cows, when a friend told him about the job at the machine shop. Now he’s helping to create parts for medical devices and even NASA.

“I didn’t have that high of expectations,” said Doom, who already had familiarity with computers. “Eight months later I’m running multiple machines.’’

  • related content

  • Machinist Matthew Doom inspected a 3-D object at Baklund R & D in Hutchinson, Minn. The firm has hired four people in the past year and is seeking more.

  • Jon Baklund, owner of Baklund R&D, held a 3-D printed sample, right, and a foot for the Morpheus Mars landing craft, a part manufactured by his company for NASA, as he discussed how technology innovations have helped him double his business to meet demand for low-volume, highly customizable products.

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