2022 was another year of strong growth, with the company’s total head count rising to 13 people.
Due to continuing demand for MJF parts a 3rd machine was added at F3DP to support the large production projects that were starting to become a regular occurrence.
With the ever increasing volume of parts F3DP was producing it was time to upgrade the post processing area of the shop. An automatic tumble blaster, 2 person bead blasting booth, centrally plumbed dust collection system, and a built in Cerakote booth were added to the F3DP shop to help with efficiently processing parts after printing.
DE added a new FARO arm nicknamed Hank.
It was also time to think about the future growth of the company. Keeping DE and F3DP as separate business units had worked out well and with more growth opportunities on the horizon it was time to set up a holding company to simplify things on the back end and enable easy and rapid growth in the future by adding more business units. Gambit Works (GW) was set up as this new holding company.
Gambit: a device, action, or opening remark, typically one entailing a degree of risk, that is calculated to gain an advantage.
GW was granted a Federal Firearms License for Manufacturing, this opened up a whole new market for the company to work with and also made team building events at the range much more interesting.
F3DP Printed AR-15 lowers using the MJF machines for R&D work around polymer firearm parts.
2021 was a year of growth for both business units:
DE added more Designers in order to try and keep up with soaring demand from its Automated Equipment Customers. In the post COVID world manufacturers could not find enough workers so they were turning to automated systems instead. This influx of work overwhelmed many of DE’s Machine Build customers Engineering Departments requiring them to outsource their overflow work to companies like DE to keep up.
F3DP was running a 2-week backlog all through the first half of 2021 and in July a second MJF machine was purchased and installed in order to help with the backlog.
A 3rd MJF material was added specifically for end use part production: PA-12 GB.
Paul gave another Design for Additive Manufacturing presentation at an all online Solidworks World.
Our building sits on the edge of a large farm field that is surrounded by woods. During hunting season its not uncommon to see deer moving across this field during the morning and late afternoon. Will Finkler, one of our Designers on the DE team, is an avid bow hunter and noticed that a large Buck was moving through this field on a somewhat regular basis so he started bringing his bow to work with him. One morning he looked out his window and noticed this Buck was walking across the field, lets just say the rest is history, but you can see from the picture below that Will was successful in his stalk. All the other bow hunters in the building were Jealous!
2020 started out like all the others, a flurry of activity at the office and in the shop, Paul headed off to present again at Solidworks world.
We also made the leap and purchased an additional material to run on our MJF machine, TPU rubber! This was specifically to try and break into the market for class A safe nesting for our machine build / automation customers.
In April we were running at full steam ahead when we all started hearing news coming out of China about some kind of flu.
One of our 3DP techs had been living in mainland China in 2019 and was showing us videos on Chinese social media of the government welding doors shut on apartment buildings, we all figured they were just overreacting……
By early March the world was starting to shut down due to COVID and both the engineering and 3D printing businesses came to a screeching, crashing, fiery stop. Paul spent a few sleepless weeks trying to find something to keep the business going as the Engineers set up home offices and the F3DP team got used to doing temperature checks at the front door and sanitizing their hands 100 times a day.
By mid-March there was a call from a current F3DP machine build customer who had pivoted his business to making hand sanitizer dispenser systems. He had gotten a call from Amazon asking how fast he could build 20,000 of his units for use in their fulfillment centers. F3DP went from having no work to unlimited work with one phone call. We ran 24/7 until the customer got his expedited injection mold tooling done 1 month later. At that point the world’s supply chains had been brought to their knees and the USA domestic 3DP industry had a boom unlike anything it had ever seen in its short history. The MJF machine ran 7 days a week for the rest of the year.
We had been getting requests from our 3DP customers ever since we added the MJF machine for more color options. After a bunch of experimentation we decided to go with Cerakote, 2 of our team members went out for Training and upon their return we added it to our service offering to much excitement by our customers.
We also added a Girbau DY130 system for applying black dye more consistently to MJF parts after printing.
With the world being closed up around us for the rest of the year we still found ways to go out and have fun. For example, paintball is a inherently socially distant game! We had to have another small-scale Christmas party, but something was better than nothing.
2019 was a year of building momentum as F3DP started to pick up more and more jobs due to its early adoption of the MJF technology.
Some of this work was from the machine builder clients we were initially hoping to work with, but we were also quite surprised by the number of end use production part orders we got as well!
We also started a new October tradition of hosting classes from our local high school for Manufacturing day! Considering over 1/2 of the combined DE / F3DP team graduated from this school this was a great way to give back to a School that put us all on this path.
While Paul had continued attending Solidworks world every year since 2011, this year he finally got up the courage to submit a presentation on design for additive manufacturing, and it got excepted! Surprisingly he was not booed off the stage and overall the feedback on the talk was positive!
The work hard play hard culture continued with golf and high speed electric go carts.
DE was starting to find its groove; the Engineering Team had established a reputation as a skilled group of Machine and Automation Designers and the customer base of machine builders was starting to grow exponentially.
F3DP made a HUGE bet the company investment into the HP MJF technology and brought an HP MJF 4200 system running Nylon 12 in house. We had the 4th MJF machine in the state of Michigan.
The thesis around this investment was that DE’s machine build customers were trying to use more 3D printed parts on their projects and they were finding a lack of 3D Printing companies who understood what they needed. The plan was that F3DP would be perfectly positioned to fill this need.
The fun continued at work, taking day trips to the range, getting on the news to talk 3D Printing, baby themed Halloween costumes, and a wood chuck meeting its end out the engineering office window to Nick and his compound bow.
In March we were finally able to move the Engineering Group out of our temporary “lifeboat office” in an old bank and into our new home in the built-out warehouse! What an upgrade that was!
Getting Forerunner 3DP fully set up and stabilized was a major project this year. We had to learn the 3D printing business from the ground up with nothing but our wits and Google to figure things out.
Once things settled down we got back to making sure we had fun at work, Shooting ranges, escape rooms, and of course the return of an even bigger and better Christmas party!
2016 was a year of massive change for our little company!
In January we hired a new Engineering Manager (Nick Depender) to take over the management of the Mechanical Engineering team so Paul could (he thought) focus on sales.
The owner of Select Manufacturing Services called Paul in the spring and said he was ready to sell. Paul worked out a deal with him to buy the assets of his business along with his customer list. In turn these assets were used to spin up a new business unit called Forerunner 3D Printing (F3DP)!
It was kept as a separate business unit from DeWys Engineering to keep a brand name that was specifically related to the business of 3D Printing.
At the same time the building that DE was currently renting space in was sold so it was time to move again. Our long-term landlord bought into an empty old beat up stamping plant on the edge of town and gave us a build to suit deal. Within a month Baker Masonry was putting up walls in the back corner of the old warehouse and concrete started flowing. The buildout would last through the end of the year.
F3DP’s 2 SLA printers were moved in and made operational before the building had lights or heat installed! Old Select Manufacturing customers were still ordering parts and we had to fill these orders even if it meant working under temporary construction lighting!
The Tool Creeper product was launched for sale on Amazon.
We had to take a year off from our normal big Christmas party since we did not even have a building to have it in!
This year saw a rebranding of the company to DeWys Engineering to better reflect the automation and shop floor equipment design work we were beginning to specialize in as a company.
A new FARO arm (nicknamed Raul) with a much more capable 3D laser scan head was added.
We also started our tradition of making work FUN:
Lunch time basketball games.
Tube trip down the Muskegon river.
Sponsoring a company Softball team.
Paul also had a fateful conversation with the Owner of a small 3D printing company called Select Manufacturing Services about potentially buying his company. He was not ready to sell yet, but the seed had been planted.
A side project using excess engineering hours to develop an idea for a product called a Tool Creeper was also started.
Things got so busy in 2014 that Paul was able to hire 2 full-time Solidworks Designers to help keep up with the engineering workload.
Will Finkler joined in the spring and Taylor Van Manen in the fall.
This was also the year that Paul bought his first Faro Arm and started getting into the world of Reverse Engineering.
Will quickly became the FARO specialist.
2014 was also the first year of the DE Christmas party!
This was the year that we got our first 3D Printer, a Makerbot Replicator 2X. Paul did not know it at the time but this little machine would eventually change the course of his business completely.
Paul’s brother Ben came back for a second summer and helped offload a lot of smaller projects from him so he could focus on one of the company’s largest projects to date, the development of a iPhone case with a built in taser (no, we are not kidding, this really happened).
That spring Paul’s Accountant had threatened to quit unless he hired a professional Bookkeeper, he lucked into finding Jennifer Bissard and convincing her to come work for him. She was the companies first real employee and rapidly became Paul’s right-hand woman.
In the spring of 2012 the foreclosed building Paul had been renting an office in finally sold so it was time to move across town in to a slightly larger office in another industrial building.
This was good timing because the company was growing and Paul needed help so he hired his younger brother Ben to work for him that summer while he was home from college.
Every Wednesday they would take off from work early and hang out at a wakeboard park, Ben would ride around the lake and Paul would sit on the beach and prospect for leads on ODESK.com, it was a great summer.
Throughout the year the company grew its customer base and got into more new markets including picking up its first small new product development jobs.
2011 was a year of saying yes to any work Paul could find, this included things like:
Assembly instructions for kids toy marble works sets.
Creating video renders of apple spraying equipment.
And lots of other non engineering related work, but hey, it paid the bills!
It was also a year spent learning more about sales and marketing, it turns out, when you start a Engineering business from scratch you have to not only be an engineer, you have to be a Salesman as well.
This was also the first year that Paul attended Solidworks World, this became a yearly tradition for him due to all the amazing lectures he was able to attend and also the fact that there was lots of networking opportunities that involved free beer.
Paul graduated from FSU in the spring of 2010 and the company moved out of his college apartment and into his mom’s basement.
He realized that if he wanted to build a real business he needed more than 1 customer so he spent that summer learning sales the hard way by knocking on doors, needless to say it was a painful summer.
By the end of Paul had gained 3 more small clients and purchased a seat of Solidworks since it turned out no one outside of Aerospace and Chrysler actually used CATIA V5.
That Fall Paul moved out of the basement and into a single room office in a foreclosed industrial building. The bathroom was unheated and the building might have been haunted but he was moving up in the world!
Paul DeWys founded his original company (DeWys Industrial Design) out of his college apartment in the Fall of 2009.
His first customer was Autodie in Grand Rapids, Paul worked there as in Intern during his Junior and Senior years of college at Ferris State University and long story short he convinced them to hire him to work remote while he was wrapping up his senior year.
The first CAD software purchased for the company was 1 seat of CATIA V5.