Aerospace, medical and consumer products are just three of the sectors being targeted by Cork-based start-up Addaptiv Design & Technology which helps manufacturers incorporate 3D printing into their production to shorten lead times, localise supply chains and reduce inventory. The company was founded earlier this year by University of Limerick manufacturing and operations graduate William Nolan and has since soft launched with its full commercial unveiling planned for September.
Coronavirus-related concerns around the security of the supply chain have ramped up interest in Addaptiv’s service over the last few months and this has played perfectly into one Nolan’s key strategic goals for his business which is to nudge manufacturing industry here towards replacing imported components with locally produced ones. Addaptiv can make components in volumes from one to thousands on demand.
“There is a perception that 3D is expensive but that’s not necessarily the case. It depends on what you’re trying to do with it,” Nolan says. “It’s all about pairing the right product with the right material and the process is particularly well-suited to low- to medium-volume production. We start by assessing a company’s needs and identifying what aspects of their production could benefit from our technology. Setting up 3D printing can be a steep and expensive learning curve and we can flatten it for our customers at a fraction of the cost.”
Nolan spent the last seven years working for the Fortune 500 medtech company, Stryker, and during this time he was heavily involved in "additive manufacturing technology" (the industrial production name for 3D printing) and specifically in developing metal 3D printing processes for medical implants. Nolan loved his job and had a promising career path ahead. However, the draw to work for himself was too strong and he was also keen to bring Irish companies into what he describes as "the age of digital manufacturing".
Nolan says his experience of high-volume 3D printing means the solutions Addaptiv develops for its customers are based on proven processes whose potential he has seen at first hand. He also has good connections in the 3D printing industry and says his customers will benefit from his access to their leading-edge technology.
“Additive manufacturing technology allows for a standardised platform that can be used to build products for many industries so we can essentially create an ‘anything’ factory,” Nolan adds. “3D printing has already shown how it can disrupt traditional manufacturing methods and meet rapidly changing supply chain demands particularly for low-volume production, concept development, prototyping and product launches. We are changing the way companies design and make parts with a win-win around cost savings, time savings and a reduced carbon footprint.”
The company’s service is aimed at start-up and small companies that can use Addaptiv’s expertise to develop and commercialise their own products and also at larger manufacturers with processes that require custom components, spares and tooling. Nolan rallies in his spare time and his inside knowledge of the sport has created a less obvious but growing revenue strand for his business which is making components for classic car and motorsport enthusiasts who need one-off parts that don’t cost a king’s ransom.
Addaptiv is targeting the Irish market to begin with, but Nolan's aspirations are global. He also wants to help Ireland grow its reputation abroad as a high-quality, cost-effective location for additive manufacturing technology. Investment in the business so far has been about €40,000, which has been self-financed apart from a small grant Nolan received as part of his participation in the 12-month Ignite entrepreneurial programme for third-level graduates which is based at UCC. He is now looking to raise €150,000 to scale up and accelerate the full commercial launch of Addaptiv's service.