DGF Technologies was founded in the spring of 2013 as the continuation of the founding partners’ independent engineering consulting practices. President Aaron Falk, Vice President of Engineering Calvin Domenico, and Vice President of Architecture Edison Gieswin moved DGF Technologies into Ames Business Park in Somerville, Massachusetts, where they offer a broad range of fabrication techniques and engineering disciplines including electrical, mechanical, and software. Not only do they work with large clients, they are heavily active with local businesses, nonprofits, and artists to meet their fabrication needs. Instead of focusing on helping clients with software OR hardware, DGF Technologies is equipped to work on a product as a complete system, rather than specializing on a small focus area. This general engineering approach allows them to be a “one-stop-shop” for clients, streamlining the engineering process by maintaining a talented cross-disciplinary team in house. DGF also works with a wide network of specialists in various disciplines to fill in as needed.
Before working with CAPINC, DGF Technologies used a number of online print-to-order resources for their 3D printing needs, which was acceptable for the occasional one-off print jobs. As their need for physical prototyping grew, they ran into a couple of challenges, including shipping costs and turnaround time. Director of Customer Happiness, Jamie Waltz explained the benefit they saw in offering 3D printing for their customers:
“For iterative prototyping, there is great value in being able to see and handle a three-dimensional object, because needed changes are often immediately apparent, as opposed to working with the CAD model by itself.”
Most of the companies they ordered 3D prints from charged a premium for quick turnaround, only being able to offer at best next day arrival. Like more shops, DGF realized they worked a lot faster than one revision per day. The cost associated with printing and shipping added up quickly, and it made more sense to have a production-quality 3D printer in-house.
The team at DGF approached the need for an in-house 3D printer in a few different ways. Three of their team members were involved with an early stage 3D printer company. Two of the DGF partners continue to make a hobby out of refurbishing and improving existing CNC machine tools, and have built their own 3D printer with delta kinematics. The company eventually decided on investing in two prosumer level 3D printers: a MakerBot and a Solidoodle. Jamie explained their experience with the hobbyist printers:
“Stratasys is a leader in this space for a reason; they have put the time and money in to creating a genuinely user-friendly product with very powerful capabilities. The frustration that comes from using a prosumer printer is extreme. It seems like every other print misprints, filament gets trapped in the nozzle, the print plate spontaneously shifts mid-print.”
After DGF had their MakerBot and Solidoodle for some time, they began realizing their need for a more reliable, cost effective printer was expanding. In January of 2014 they reached out to our 3D printing experts at CAPINC with questions on Fused Deposition Modeling and our FORTUS systems. They decided the FORTUS 250 would fit their current needs. Since its installation, the team has been printing frequently. Jamie talked about the how the 3D printer fits in with DGF Technologies’ other offerings.
“With the FDM printer, the models are structurally very robust. The heated environment means that the layers of ABS fuse together, so we are able to make things, not just models, but functional custom items with our FORTUS.”
The ability to print a prototype on demand and not have to wait for shipping is a tremendous benefit that DGF now offers their contract engineering customers. When clients visit the office, their ability to make adjustments and print a revised model over the course of a meeting is an incredibly powerful tool to DGF, showing their clients that they’re not just listening, but working efficiently with them.
Having a production-quality 3D printer has also improved DGF Technologies’ design review process. By 3D printing a part, they move off the two-dimensional screen and into three dimensions. Even when they have parts that need to be produced in materials other than ABS, the FORTUS enables them to double-check designs before submitting them to vendors for a quote. Not only does this improve their confidence in what they are submitting, but it streamlines interaction with vendors, removing the back and forth for adjustments. Jamie described how the 3D printer has rapidly sped up their design process.
“One of the partners deals with the bulk of mechanical design, and while he is a CAD wizard, he loves having the freedom to print at will – it speeds his design process up significantly. From my perspective, as the person most directly engaged with our customers, this option permits a level of empathy between the engineer and the customer that a model on the screen can only hint at. It changes the discussion with a client by letting them see a physical model, how their ideas look when constrained to the laws of physics, instead of the endless possibilities you can imagine or draw, and it gives the engineers and designers a prop that lets them directly engage with customers in a meaningful way.”
Getting started with the FORTUS 250 was a quick process for DGF Technologies. Jamie described the easy learning curve and how they continue to work smarter, no harder with the system.
“Dave [from CAPINC] came out and did a short class with us on using the software, and after a few practice prints, we were up and rolling! The Stratasys software is incredibly powerful, so as new design challenges come up, we learn more and more about the modifications that we can make in the software.”
DGF initially began offering the print-to-order service, as well as our cut-to-order laser cutting service, as a way to develop their technicians’ fabrication skills and keep them sharp. They found that often with a larger contract client, there is a need to reproduce the same object with a minor change many times, and throwing some variety in the mix forces them to develop many different approaches. This gives DGF’s team plenty of practice, helping them learn the finer points of the FORTUS even faster.
They have also focused on learning to use the FORTUS 250 in conjunction with our other rapid prototyping tools including the laser cutter and their custom thermoplastic vacuum former. If they need to make a cast urethane object, they can model the part, print it on the FORTUS, pull a mold from it on the therMOFOrmer, and then cast in the mold. Any needed changes can be made in the digital model instead of on a physical one, so they can quickly repeat the process.
For short run packaging they can laser cut an attractive box from wood or cardboard, and use the FORTUS to print a positive model of what is to be packaged, use the Stratasys software to create flow-through channels for vacuum forming, and make a plastic packaging insert. Many of DGF’s customers are entrepreneurs seeking further funding and presentation is critical to their success. The ability to offer this type of polish makes their process significantly easier.
With inventive places like the Artisan’s Asylum and Greentown Labs, and the generally creative culture in Somerville and the Boston area, DGF Technologies has seen a growing need for production-quality 3D printers. Investing in their FORTUS 250 has allowed them to streamline their design process and offer yet another reliable technology to their customers. The future is bright and innovative for DGF Technologies and CAPINC is happy to support them along the way!
DGF Technologies loves working with innovators at all levels of experience and funding. They also love mentoring opportunities and interns. Contact them to learn more.