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Omaha’s first commercial 3D printing service opens shop

A 3D-printed Eiffel Tower, elephant, T-Rex head, house and other objects line the desks at 3D Kul Factory in west Omaha. The new commercial 3D printer launched this summer and will make prototypes, parts and more.

Gaskets, prototypes, replacement parts, T-Rex head statues and yes, even a Yoda bottle opener.

Those are just some of the things a new business in west Omaha is making with their new $30,000 3D printer—it may be the first commercial 3D printing service in the city.

3D Kul Factory opened its doors this summer and hopes to makes prototypes, parts and other custom jobs for inventors, entrepreneurs and other businesses.

The operation’s housed inside its parent company, Sympateco, an Omaha manufacturer that builds cabinetry and other things for national franchises like Sports Clips. Dane Foster, who heads up the business side of 3D Kul Factory, said Sympateco’s owner is forward-thinking and saw the potential in starting a 3D printing company.

“It gives us an advantage because a lot of startups are strained by time and capital,” Foster said. “This gives us the freedom to find exactly where we fit in, whether it’s biomedical, physical manufacturing of parts or prototypes. 3D printing is just this huge, wide, vague thing right now.

“Having a mature parent company gives us more tolerance to help find where we want to be.”

Foster (middle) plucked two fresh mechanical engineering grads, Nathan Davis (left ) and James Pierce (right), to head up the technical side of things: scanning, creating 3D CAD files and printing.

Pierce said 3D printing was one of his priorities going into his job search. He said he’s eager to collaborate with those looking to get a product made.

“Right now the market is pretty heavy in a model where you send a design to a printer and they send you the product,” Pierce said. “I enjoy the whole process from helping design, to 3D scanning, creating files and printing.

Davis had his own business as a 3D printing enthusiast, working with his brother out of a garage with a Solidoodle 2.

“I started playing around with it out of college and it was something that’s so interesting and powerful,” Davis said. “You have an idea of something you want to create and you can send it to the printer and it just makes it. It’s flexible and you can quickly develop ideas, so hopefully we can provide a great service to Omahans.”

The Factory already created useful parts for Sympateco, like a piece to fit into a door frame where a door wouldn’t quite close. They printed a plastic rectangle, embedded metal nuts for screws to fit in and it fit the door.

“Over the time of installing of these doors, it will save them thousands of hours,” Foster said. “That’s the beauty of 3D printing: you can make anything.”

So far, they’ve made lots of prototypes for their parent company, but also have had an inventor come in with a unique product idea. They were able to make a custom fan he needed.

“Money aside, years ago, I don’t know how you’d make this stuff because there are so many complex parts,” Foster said.

The company has a few smaller MakerBots and a Stratasys Fortus 250mc that can print up to a 10-by-10-by-12-inch item. MakerBots print about 11-by-6-by-6 inches.

There are other hobbyist MakerBot 3D printers in town, including at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, but Foster believes this may be the first Stratasys in the city. Tethon 3D, a ceramic 3D printing company, may be the only other game in town, after a quick Google search.

3D Kul Factory works with PLA, a thermoplastic; ABS, a stronger, oil-based plastic; Nylon; and NinjaFlex, a polyurethane rubber. They also are selling supplies at their office, 11625 I St.

Prices can range from a hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on what you’re trying to make and how much time it will take to scan, design and print, Foster said.

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