The year was 2020 and the Covid virus was spreading like crazy throughout the world. My dad had passed away years earlier from a plane accident and my Mom had re-married then retired and was in Africa, on a mission, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She had left the reins in my hands to run Dustless. (To read about the history of this and DustlessTechnologies please visit this link)
I had/have a great team at Dustless. They were energetic and wanted to see the company grow. All of our plastic products up until this time had been injection molded.
Some products did well while others did not. That is business, right? Well when a small business invests hundreds of thousands to launch a product and the product does not do well, it is a huge blow and can put a business under. Throughout the years and after doing OEM work for some of the biggest tool companies in the world, we discovered that we were not the only ones that had product failures. The “big boys” did as well. They just had much larger pockets incase a project failed. They too build molds only to use them once and fail at projects just to throw the molds away. I thought to my self there has to be a better way!
Most of our molds were made in China and shipped to Utah or many products stayed in China. A project that was $250,000 and 9 months in Utah, was $25,000 and 6 months in China. This made the economics of bringing our products back in the USA almost unachievable.
I had just taken a Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business class and was excited to shift Dustless into high gear, but I was not happy with the current process to develop products. Some of the issues we had with the current manufacturing processes were:
Projects with injection molded parts took 12+ months to launch
Once the mold was built, there were little to no design improvements that could be made to the steel mold leaving design agility and improvement difficult
Because of the cost of molds in the US, most our molds had to be built overseas
A little sense of pride vanishes when you are almost forced to build your products in another country across the world
After trying different ways to improve the injection mold process, my team and I were running in to roadblocks. Then one day after hitting another injection mold roadblock, I had the thought that maybe injection molding was not the way of the future. Maybe 3D printing will replace molds. Maybe a digital inventory will overtake an antilog molding process.
We determined that for 3D printing to replace injection molding at Dustless, it had to hit 3 areas:
- 3D parts had to be the same quality of injection molded parts
- 3D parts had to be about the same cost as molded parts
- 3D parts had to be as scalable as injection molded parts
Consumers did not care how a product was made. They just cared that the product met their needs. It was the manufacturer that cared about the manufacturing process. They were the ones taking on the big risk and investment for molds! They are the ones that take a hit when a mold doesn’t work out.
3D printing for production was really only happening at scale in markets that had high margins like dental, medical, and prototyping but no one was doing it for consumer goods which are 90% of the products coming in this country… and its by the container. After talking to hundreds of 3D printing manufacturers, we were told many times that we were about 10-20 years ahead of out time. Well, we had a need and we needed to accomplish it very quickly if we wanted to excel and even stay alive.
Our long-term goal at Merit3D is to become the additive manufacturing mecca of the world. Producing in mass additive manufacturing parts that are:
- Hard plastic
- Flexible rubber plastic
We believe additive manufacturing will just improve as time goes on. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg and as quality improves, cost comes down and scalability goes up, it will replace older technologies for manufacturing. We would love for you join us on this tourney. We love seeing other businesses be able to grow and scale without having high upfront costs and high risks.
Spencer Loveless and the Merit3D team
Our Company Vision
At Merit3D, we have four (4) main goals
Create 200+ Jobs in Southeast Utah
Bring manufacturing back to America
Create additive manufacturing sources for manufacturers to find engineering and products at comparable rates and quality as traditional manufacturing
Create an Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center made from a consortium of government, education and industry
Advanced Manufacturing Organizations & Industry
- GOED- Governors Office of Economic Development
- MEP-Manufacturers extension partnership of Utah
- Impact Utah
- UAMMI-Utah Advanced Materials and manufacturing Initiative
- UMA-Utah Manufacturers Association
- DOD-Hill Air force base
- ORNL-Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Local City and County officials
- America Makes
- USUE-Utah State University Eastern
- USU- Utah State University
- Davis Tech
- Utah Stem Centers
- University of Maine
- Local school districts
- Dustless Technologies
- Intermountain Electronics
- Conductive Composites
- Many Additive Manufacturing suppliers and contacts