Iten Looks to the Future with JuggerBot 3D

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A 98-year old business based in Ashtabula is looking toward the next 100 years with the help of an additive-manufacturing portfolio company housed in the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Iten Industries recently purchased a 3D printer manufactured by YBI-based JuggerBot 3D, a piece of equipment that is the first of its kind, the companies say.

“We look at JuggerBot as being an effective partner to lead us into groundbreaking technologies that will help us gain market share,” said Ron Emery, head of business development at Iten.  “They’ve developed large printing technology that we feel will take us into the next 100 years.”

Iten designs and manufactures thermoset and thermoplastic components for a variety of industries including electronics, defense, aerospace, construction and consumer goods. The plastics-injection molding company uses a pultrusion process in which the material is pulled through a die in order to produce the part.  The majority of parts produced through this method are used in electrical applications.

“We are working on a number of new projects that will allow us to use them in other applications,” he said.

The dies and molds are built in-house at the company’s 100,000 square-foot plant in Ashtabula.  Iten employs about 135 and is owned by the Huggins family, Emery noted.

Emery said that Juggerbot’s machine – the Tradesman Series F3-32 – would be used to print 3D prototypes, which substantially reduces the time it takes to produce new tools and dies used in the manufacturing process.  “We can do tighter tolerances,” he noted.

“JuggerBot helped design the machine around what we wanted to achieve,” he said. 

What makes JuggerBot’s printer so innovative is that it is capable of printing both thermoset and thermoplastic materials in a single build, said Dan Fernback, vice president of Juggerbot 3D.

“This is the only machine in the world that prints thermoplastics and thermosets in the same chamber,” he said.

Thermoplastics – PVC and nylon, for example — are polymers that soften when heat is applied, allowing for a certain degree of flexibility.  Thermoset plastics, such as polyester and reinforced fiberglass, harden when heated. 

JuggerBot’s printer is able to combine both composites in a single part, Fernback said. “It would be used for co-molded or over-molded components that exhibit both rigid and flexible features,” he said.  “Gromits in a car or a toothbrush, for example.”

JuggerBot was established in 2014 at the YBI’s building at 240 W. Federal St. It has since moved to the incubator’s Tech Block No. 5 building and continues to expand, he said. 

Additive manufacturing – the process of using software design and materials to automatically build a part from the ground up – is a natural fit for Iten as it begins develop new products and explore new markets, Emery said. 

The company is also adding new machining capability to its operations, Emery said.  “One of the other things we want to focus on is building tooling for other customers,” he said.  

Emery added that Iten has ordered a second, larger 3D printer from Juggerbot that will help improve throughput production time.

These machines are integral to Iten’s future, Emery said, evidenced by the recent launch of its Imagineering Center at the plant, which employs the latest technologies to the plastics-injection molding industry. “Our tag line is ‘Imagineering with Plastics,’” he remarked.  “If you can think it, we can build it.”

Pictured: Andrew Huggins, production manager at Iten, and Pete Huggins, president and CEO.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.