Behind the Scenes Printing the Impossible at Voodoo Manufacturing It’s a safe bet that Brooklyn’s Voodoo Manufacturing is the only company in the world that has manufactured custom mannequins, prosthetic hands, action figures from video games, trophies for VH1’s Hip Hop Honors show, architectural models, brain- sensor helmets, and dog goggles. These are only a few of the products the company has made for its growing list of more than 2,000 customers. Max Friefeld, Jonathan Schwartz, Oliver Ortlieb, and Patrick Deem hatched the idea of offering 3D printing as a service while working for one of the leading makers of 3D printers. Many people are aware of 3D printing from a hobbyist’s perspective, but the three colleagues and roommates saw the potential for a fresh take on the idea of contract manufacturing. Their mission is both simple and bold: “We’re giving everyone on Earth the power to manufacture.” Voodoo’s business model is based on on-demand 3D printing
, in which clients upload digital models of whatever they would like to have made, then Voodoo’s battalion of printers (more than 200 already, with more to come) go to work creating them. The process doesn’t require the expensive molds or tooling that traditional manufacturing needs, and the turnaround time is usually a matter of days rather than the months that ramping up traditional manufacturing can involve, With no start-up costs, no minimum volume requirements, and rapid turnaround, this mode of manufacturing opens up powerful possibilities for Voodoo’s clients. Advertising agencies and other marketing firms use the service to create small batches of promotional items, for instance. Other companies use the service for rapid and iterative prototyping, in which they quickly test a physical product for design errors or functional issues, tweak their digital model, get another physical item to test, and repeat the cycle until the design is optimized. This is also a great way to test-market products by putting them in the hands of potential customers to get their reactions. 9: Production Systems To support a wide range of customers, Voodoo expanded its business model both upstream and downstream from the manufacturing stage. If customers don’t have the design or technical skills to create digital models of the products they would like to make, Voodoo offers custom design services to take clients from the idea stage through manufacturing. And on the downstream side, it offers fulfillment services
from its Brooklyn factory, in which it can ship finished products directly to a client’s customers. In other words, if you had an idea for a product but no clue how to design it or make it and no company in place to ship products to customers, Voodoo could handle the entire process for you. The 3D printing that Voodoo uses is a form of additive manufacturing (the terms are sometimes used interchangeably), in which digital models are reproduced in plastic, metal, or other substances by applying or “printing” successive layers of material. Voodoo currently offers its clients two types of plastic: a biodegradable corn-based plastic
and a plastic with the elasticity and flexibility of rubber. Other types of additive manufacturing include metal powders that are melted into solids using lasers
and machines that can print houses using fast-drying concrete. Additive manufacturing is used for a vast range of products today, including movie props, custom-fit hearing aids
, machinery components, car parts, shoes, and even rocket parts. Voodoo has received several rounds of investment funding, and Friefeld and his colleagues are upbeat about the company’s prospects. Their next move is continuing to automate the manufacturing process using robotic arms that extract finished goods from those hundreds of printers so that production can continue virtually without pause 24 hours a day. The next time you get an idea for a great product that no one has ever made, don’t dismiss it as an idle daydream. Voodoo can help you make that dream a reality. 390 Critical Thinking Questions 9-1.!es a service such as Voodoo support the concepts of virtual and unstructured 9-2. organizations discussed in Chapter 80? What advantages does iterative prototyping offer companies that are introducing new types of products to the market? 9-3. How does Voodoo represent the concepts of cyber-physical systems and the smart factory?