Boise used to be a hub for locomotive manufacturing. Now, it could be a hub for 3D printing.
Slant 3D has announced it will expand to a new facility on the former MotivePower site in SE Boise off Federal Way. The site is also the home of Boise Mobile Equipment, which moved its local fire truck manufacturing operation to the area last year.
Slant 3D, founded in Canyon County in 2018, is a high-volume 3D printing provider. Its current facility in Caldwell includes 800 3D printers making products and parts from plastics, carbon-fiber nylon, and other materials.
Now, with the new facility, Slant 3D says it will bump production up to 2,000 printers – and add a range of automation features. The company says it will print the 3D printers with 3D printers — and then use robotics to monitor the printers and collect completed parts for distribution.
“Slant 3D has been growing exponentially. With the solutions we have been offering for supply chain disruption and just new products we can’t keep up with demand,” Slant 3D founder and CEO Gabe Bentz said.
Funding, business model
Bentz said the company also picked up a new fundraising round, though didn’t detail terms.
Bentz said the current Caldwell facility is “the largest” in the western hemisphere — and that the new 2,000-printer farm will dwarf even that.
In a YouTube video on the expansion, he explains that 3D printing helps untangle supply chains, and cut down on expense for parts manufacturers. Traditional manufacturing for certain parts requires molds, shipping from overseas, product minimums, and warehousing costs. His thesis is that 3D printing can cut down on many of the costs with on-demand printing.
“You don’t have to make tens of thousands of parts. And if you don’t have tens of thousands of parts, you don’t have to ship them, you don’t have to store them,” Bentz said. “You don’t have to build all this infrastructure to get your part from the manufacturer to the actual customer. Instead, you can create the model and upload it. Then a customer buys it and it’s shipped to them. Nothing is ever actually made until somebody actually orders it.”
Room to grow
He said the current Caldwell facility is getting crowded, which necessitated the move to Boise. The electricity needs of the plant also prompted the change – Bentz said the current site didn’t have the power infrastructure they needed to power all the machines.
The new building on the former Motive Power site is more than 13,000 square feet in size – and used to feature large bays with rail service to load engines in and out. Soon, it will see a sea of 3D printers making widgets for shipment across the US.
As BoiseDev reported in 2019, MotivePower closed the Boise plant and moved production to Erie, Pennsylvania. The train-maker traced back to 1972 as a subsidiary of Morrison-Knudsen, before being spun out as MK Rail in 1993. The company eventually merged with Westinghouse Air Brake Company to form Wabtec. The plant cranked out more than 2,800 locomotives during its time in operation.