May 18, 2024

Research, Technology & Innovation

The global reach of Florida innovations

Mike Vogel | 8/31/2021

3-D Printing Components



Slice Engineering at the University of Florida Innovation Hub in Gainesville was founded by UF mechanical engineering grad Daniel Barousse, 32, and Duke University alum Christopher Montgomery, 42. Founded in 2017, it employs 10 to make 3-D printer components. Annual revenue this year will be from $2.5 million to $3 million. It has four U.S. patents and more pending. Below is an interview with Barousse.

Growth: “We typically more than double every year, which is a pretty wild ride.”

Choosing the Hub as a Base: “When I was going to undergrad, I lived down the street from where this is now in what used to be a real terrible part of town. They started building this beautiful new innovation center. I said if I ever get the chance, I would love to come back. There was a broom-closet size space open here. There were four of us in this little tiny room. We were bumping each other with our elbows. We’ve graduated to larger and larger spaces within the building as time has gone on.”

Products: “We are an add-on aftermarket upgrade for the person who has the hobby-level printer at their house and then we work with some 3-D printer manufacturers to provide components for them as well. The 3-D printing industry is a little bit unusual in that there are industrial companies and customers who are building parts for NASA and the U.S. Navy and there are also people who have a hobby 3-D printer at home and they’re printing a Baby Yoda head.”

Competition: “There’s probably a dozen or so companies in the world that are in a similar space. Some of them strictly target the industrial space, and some of them strictly target the consumer space. We’re one of the few companies that is trying to do both, which makes us relatively inexpensive on the industrial side and rather expensive on the consumer side.”

Forte: “We work specifically with thermoplastics. I would say 95% of our products, at least by revenue, are done in the United States.”

Threat: “Probably our biggest challenge is there are a bunch of Chinese companies that are making replicas of our product for a lot cheaper than what we’re making them for. Of course, they didn’t have the R&D cost. They don’t have to pay engineers. They’re manufacturing overseas. Typically, they won’t just replicate your design. They also steal the copyrighted material off your website. They’ll take your photos, all your product copy and they will basically pretend to be you on some platform.”

Pitch for the Industry: “Additive manufacturing is going to be an enabling technology for reshoring manufacturing and really tightening up our supply chain as a country to make sure we’re not so reliant on potentially hostile foreign powers. We’re working with a small volume manufacturer. They’ve been doing all their stuff in China. We found a way to make some of their larger parts with 3-D printers instead. We were able to take the time it took for them to make a part from 72 hours down to about 36 hours, and the goal eventually is to be about 24 hours. They’re able to do in-house quality control, iterate on the product design cycle much faster, and they’re able to keep jobs here. And it’s not a low-paying job.”

Tags: Around Florida, Research & Development, Technology/Innovation, Innovation, Feature

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