In this episode of Manufacturing Xpert Chats, Gerald Beranek from BeraTek Industries talks about his experience in product development with 3D Printing and Injection Molding.
Watch the video below to hear Beranek's insights on:
- Pairing 3D Printing and Injection Molding as a single production process
- Where the additive industry is heading
- Hands-on design and product development in an increasingly "untrendy" industry
KATIE: Hi Everyone, This is Katie and welcome to Manufacturing Xpert Chats. Today, we are going to be walking through and have Gerald from BeraTek Industries explain everything about 3D printing and Injection Molding. Do you want to introduce yourself and let us know how you got started in your company?
GERALD: Yeah, I am Gerald. I am the founder and owner of BeraTek Industries. I primarily started in Manufacturing Engineering based on my own products. I decided that I wanted to start designing my own products. I was an engineer at the time and I needed a manufacturing outlet. I did not have one. I knew from an injection molding standpoint I would have a lot of capital going into molds. So, I decided to buy all the equipment and start making my own products on my own. I bought a couple of CNC machines, a couple of injection molding machines. I had already started selling my products in a 3D printing fashion so I needed to transition into a production fashion.
KATIE: That's a great story of you selling the products and being an end user prior to starting your business. How long have you been in the industry?
GERALD: I graduated college back in 2010 as a Mechanical Engineer. Then 4 years after that I started selling my own products before I started BeraTek. Then I really started from the ground up the manufacturing side of BeraTek in 2015.
KATIE: How is it different running a company and catering to customers versus what you learned during your years as a Mechanical Engineering student?
GERALD: Oh real life is always different than school. Most of the time there is not enough time to do all the theory side of Mechanical Engineering that you learn in college. The difference with 3D printing and because we are a manufacturer as well it’s very quick and easy to test your hypothesis, if you will, without going into too much theory and calculations. We still use them if it’s a critical part, but normally we do not have to, especially on the parts we are designing for other people.
KATIE: How has this industry changed since you started?
GERALD: It has, in my opinion, changed quite a bit. When you look at a consumer direct product, Amazon has helped change this. It is easier than ever to get a product to market now. That is one of the reasons why BeraTek exists is because I can design, prototype, and manufacture a product within four weeks and have it on Amazon selling in the next. We have done that in the past. The advent of 3D printers and becoming more mainstream, the lower cost of 3D printers, anybody that wants to put in a little work can figure out how to get a product to market.
KATIE: That is a great story about how the industry has changed, and it was very interesting to hear how you mention Amazon as a key driver in industry change. You also mention 3D printing and injection molding. What are the similarities you see between the two? Why would you choose injection molding over 3D printing and visa verse?
GERALD: If you want to get into large volumes and reduce your per part cost injection molding is the way to go. There is an investment in a mold if you do that. From a 3D printing standpoint, there is no investment if you use somebody, Xometry for example, as a service. You can have parts within a week or so. The difference is your part price will be a bit higher because it’s not a high volume manufacturing method. The difference we use it for, we test ideas with consumers, meaning if we have an idea we can design it and 3D print it. We design it for 3D printing to keep the cost as low as possible then we can actually go and sell it to a consumer and see if people will actually buy it.
KATIE: It is very interesting to hear your take on the two processes and also your methodology on how you use both for prototype and production. Hearing that you are able to 3D print end-use parts is a huge advancement in the 3D printing industry. I remember at the very beginning of 3D printing, the parts were very frail, for lack of a better word, and not consumer grade at all. Based on your experience and expertise, do you have any advice or feedback for engineers or designers designing the parts? I am sure you get a lot of DFM questions, and a manufacturer’s perspective on designing would be really valuable.
GERALD: We see a lot of people, inventors and entrepreneurs, who have products and used a freelance engineer to engineer their product. We get a lot of customers of ours that come in and think their product is ready for manufacturing, from an injection molding standpoint or machining standpoint, and ninety percent of the time that is not the case. So, I would say from an engineering standpoint, if you engineering something really try to engineer it for manufacturability of whatever manufacturing method that is. 3D printing is a manufacturing method, it’s just not a high volume method. So, if you are prototyping and trying to get to an injection molded product, it is best to design that product for injection molding initially, if you know it is going to work. There are cases where we do strictly R&D work and have no idea if the product or design is even going to work, so in that case, you just design it for 3D printing. Then once you prove it you go back and update it to design it for manufacturing.
KATIE: I think that you made a really good point. There are so many resources out there now for design for manufacturing tips and tricks. I know we have design guides at Xometry, and other companies and well-known publications also have some great resources.
GERALD: 3D printing, if you are making a component within a larger assembly, let’s say, you can 3D print that at fairly medium, low to medium scale without having to go to injection molding. There are cases that I have been able to 3D print a product and sell it direct to a consumer and make a profit. Other cases it is not, it is simply a market test. I think you will start seeing injection molding and 3D printing used hand-in-hand. Not just for product development or R&D, but more as a production system, eventually. Hopefully one day we will see Injection molds made from 3D printing. They already do it now, but longer-term, higher volume injection molds made from 3D printing.
KATIE: Based on our discussion, it sounds like a designer or engineer really needs to understand the end use of the part and manufacturing process when in the design phase. Even during the R&D stages. Aside from that advice, what excites you about where the industry is headed? We talked so much about how far injection molding and 3D printing have come. I’m curious where you see the manufacturing industry headed in the future?
GERALD: I really hope we see more millennials or young people get into manufacturing. I think there is a huge disconnect that manufacturing isn’t cool right now because of the tech industry and that is not the case. I grew up hands-on manufacturing, designing, and in my opinion, the tech-side would be boring for myself. But for the people who are in high school or college trying to figure out what to do, go work in manufacturing for a while. Learn to work with your hands. I really hope we don’t see a shortage of manufacturing professionals in the future.
KATIE: You bring up a very interesting point about the future in the industry. Manufacturing may not be the most trendy industry to be part of, but it will require a workforce in the future. Thank you so much for all the valuable insight you provided during our call. Do you have any last minute feedback or tips you want to leave the audience?
GERALD: I would say keep creating. Everybody has ideas. You have to figure out how to get the ideas made and put into the market, but with companies like Xometry or BeraTek we are trying to make it a lot easier and faster to get products to market. There are resources out there you just need to find them and do the work.
KATIE: I would like to thank Gerald for taking the time to hop on the call with us. If anyone is interested in learning more about BeraTek Industries or Xometry look for the links below. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Manufacturing Xpert Chats. I look forward to chatting with you again soon. Have a great day!