Freshmade 3D Delivers a Strike with AMClad

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Freshmade 3D CEO Rich Wetzel lines up his shot before stepping into his swing and sending his bowling ball down the lane. Two seconds later, the rattle of scattered pins indicates a strike.

There’s applause, but not for the strike the CEO just scored.

Rather than his usual polyurethane bowling ball, Wetzel threw a ball he and his colleagues at Freshmade printed to show off their company’s new proprietary printing material, AMClad.

“If you were to do that with a bowling ball [made from traditional 3-D printing materials], it wouldn’t be heavy enough and it’d probably shatter on impact,” Wetzel said afterward. “We wanted to show that this is a strong material that won’t break and can withstand several cycles in manufacturing.”

While the material made its debut in the form of a bowling ball, Freshmade plans to use AMClad to make molds for manufacturing and tooling, Wetzel said, as well as art installations, such as the “Dreaming Tree” piece at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley here.

“We’re not going to be a 3-D printed bowling ball company,” said chief technical officer Brett Conner with a laugh.

What sets AMClad apart from other 3-D printing materials, explains Freshmade President and CEO Christopher Tomko, is its structural strength. The sand composite – isotropic engineered particulate composite in industry terms – is designed to have higher tensile, flexural and compression strengths, meaning it can stretch further, bend more and be subjected to more weight than other similar materials.

“From an engineering standpoint, it’s more tailorable. In a traditional manufacturing setting, you’re bound by the materials. In our case, the particulate we print with is the carrier of the shape and we apply properties to it,” he explains.

By comparison, he continues, manufacturers looking for an economical material usually turn to acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, polymer, the same material used to make Lego bricks and protective headwear. The usual tensile strength of ABS polymer is between 3,000 and 5,000 psi (pound per square inch), while flexural strength is around 7,000 psi. AMClad has a tensile strength of 4,820 psi and flexural strength of 7,940.

But what makes AMClad stand out most is its compression strength, capable of handling about 18,000 psi.

“You can crush it. You can park a car on it and it’ll stand up,” Tomko says.

When all attributes are combined, the result is a material that is structurally sound from all angles. AMClad is isotropic, meaning that finished products will withstand forces from all angles.

“If you hold a [traditional] 3-D printed item in your hand and bend it a certain way, it’s prone to crack. It’s weaker in that direction where the layers are stacked,” he says.

The development of AMClad began when Freshmade was commissioned to create two life-size bobble heads, one each of the Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The materials Freshmade tried to use, however, wouldn’t support the weight of the statues.

“There wasn’t any other solution for us, so we worked backward,” Tomko said. “We found an affordable solution that had no strength and then found ways to make it strong.”

As development progressed on AMClad, Wetzel said, the focus turned to providing manufacturers an affordable alternative, both through reduced materials cost and fast turnaround times.

“Typically, traditional manufacturing tools can take upward of a year to get made and tens of thousands of dollars. If that iteration isn’t good, then you have to start the process over again,” Wetzel said. “We have a fast turnaround, a variety of finishes and coating, and it’s not failing. We’re trying to validate different applications and see where we can take this.”

The unveiling of AMClad Tuesday came ahead of National Manufacturing Day. As part of the nationwide event, Youngstown State University, Youngstown Business Incubator and other manufacturing organizations are partnering for a celebration Friday, one of nearly 2,500 across the country.

“It’s a new form of manufacturing. It’s a new application. It’s local. It’s cost-effective. It’s incorporating Youngstown State, YBI and a lot of different organizations to launch something new,” he said. “That really shows there’s a lot of activity in Youngstown in manufacturing. We need to keep that going and take advantage of the resources in this region.”

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Pictured at top: Freshmade 3D officers Brett Conner, chief technical officer, Rich Wetzel, CEO, and Christopher Tomko, president and chief operations officer.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.