3D printing was originally invented to reduce the time it takes to develop an engineering prototype. The idea was for thousands of engineers to have their own personal machines at their disposal.
Today, that idea has evolved. New 3D printing service providers are emerging, many with innovative business models for delivering 3D printed prototyping and manufacturing functions. Thus, the individual engineer does not necessarily need his or her own personal 3D printer.
Fictiv is the latest additive manufacturing service provider. Founded in San Francisco by two brothers, Dale and Nate Evans, Fictiv gives small businesses and enterprises access to fast prototyping technology. The founders’ concept is to use a network of vendors with 3D printing and CNC machines in a distributed manufacturing arrangement. With this arrangement, users can have finished prototypes in a few days or hours. Specifically Fictiv provides 3D printed prototypes delivered in 24 hours, and CNC machined parts in 3 days.
3D Hubs uses a similar model of distributed service providers. The main difference is 3D Hubs focuses on 3D printing.
Fictiv offers the following additive manufacturing prototyping technologies: FDM, SLA, SLS, and PolyJet. For CNC machining, it offers milling and turning.
Rasheq Zarif, Senior Manager, Business Innovation at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc., is a customer of Fictive. Noted Zarif, “Access to a variety of high quality prototype parts early in the development process enabled us to test our hardware designs to create intelligent and great performing features. Fictiv gave us the insight and quality we expected and need to prototype new parts quickly.”
Noted Abe Fetterman, CTO at Nomiku, another Fictiv customer, “Fictiv dramatically reduced our iteration time by getting us high quality prints within days, with no extra time spent on our end preparing parts for a print, setting up a printer, or cleaning and finishing parts. Fast turnaround and less hands-on time meant our time could be spent where it was needed most: designing our product.”
Fictiv automates the prototyping process by optimizing machine capacity to support faster, on-demand part fabrication. Once customers upload their design files, the platform intelligently identifies available machine capacity and sends the parts to pre-vetted, trusted fabricators in Fictiv’s network.
This distributed approach supports local manufacturing ecosystems by helping quality vendors fill excess capacity. As the manufacturing industry shifts towards local manufacturers, Fictiv is building the infrastructure needed to allow for a distributed, agile manufacturing economy.
“The US was once the center of manufacturing in the world,” says Nate Evans, co-founder, Fictiv. “Today the country is still filled with some of the best manufacturing minds and expertise globally. However, many of these shops have been left behind without the needed technology and tools to compete against larger, centralized manufacturers. Fictiv is building a technology infrastructure to allow engineers and designers better access these experts, while catalyzing local economies to spur growth.”