From the Web: 3-D printing & the supply chain; inspiration blows in; a fabricator success story

May 28, 2014
By: Vicki Bell

Highlights for fabricators from the past week’s Web articles— 3-D printing could alter supply chain; it takes a community of businesses to build a ballpark; placing the tail on this donkey is not so easy; fabricator moves out of the basement; and the wind ushers in a new product.

  1. Much is being written these days about 3-D printing and the possibilities surrounding the technology. A recent article on EBN, an online community for global supply chain professionals, discusses how it might affect the supply chain for almost any sector by eliminating order delays.

    The article mentioned Jerry Castanos, who opened a 3-D printing business in New York City that offers the printers, related accessories, and lessons in using them. He did so after witnessing the technology in use by the U.S. Army. “Having a 3-D printer on hand meant the Arm could get key parts right away and not have to wait for orders to pass through various layers of authority before making their way to where they were needed. Cutting out the delays assured the Army it would not have to do without what the situation required.”

    Castanos predicts that 3-D printers will be in 90 percent of small businesses in the future and entrepreneurs will take on the role of producers for items their businesses require on demand.

  2. All you baseball lovers might be interested to know that the St. Paul Saints, a member of the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball (not affiliated with Major League Baseball), is getting a brand new stadium. The stadium will cost $63 million, and its construction will benefit a community of Minnesota companies.

    In all, 97 percent of the work on the Lowertown Ballpark will be completed by Minnesota companies. Among them is Central Minnesota Fabricating of Willmar, Minn., which will supply all of the structural steel and metal decking for the administration and ticketing building, the club/suite level, and custom supports for field lighting. The Saints are expected to begin playing on the new field in May 2015. You can view renderings of the new ballpark here.

  3. Think about it, fabricators: When was the last time you had to fabricate a donkey’s tail? That’s the task artist Taylor Mott is charged with as a result of someone breaking the tail off a sculpture “Homage to the Burro” in Santa Fe, N.M.

    The sculpture, part of the city’s collection of about 75 pieces of public art, stands at one end of Burro Alley. Mott is working to recreate a replacement tail for the artist Charles Southard’s review and approval. When approved, the tail will be welded in place.

  4. Many businesses begin in a garage or basement, and many languish there. Nathan Bartels’ North Central Mechanical Services, Mason City, Iowa, is not among those that languish. Bartels started the company in his basement about 3 1/2 years ago after deciding that he wanted to own his own business. Offering heating and cooling, mechanical contracting, custom sheet metal work, custom duct work and other services, it has grown steadily over the years and now occupies a 36,000-sq.-ft building, employs 10 people, and expects to hire five or six more workers over the next three years.

    The keys to success? “Attention to detail and dedication to work,” along with having good employees, many of which were hired out of North Iowa Area Community College.

    It also doesn’t hurt that the shop has very little competition. Bartels is aware of just one other Mason City business that offers the same services.

  5. Finally, Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, Mitchell, S.D., has seen a 650 percent revenue boost since inspiration struck owner Brian Klock when he and his family were returning home from the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials in 2006. Klock’s wife Laura had set records of 137 and 146 miles per hour on a Harley Davidson meant for cruising, but even though the bile was customized for high speed, it wobbled when it hit about 125 miles per hour.

    As noted in an article on, on the way home, Klock had his hand out the window, and it made him think, “How can we angle the windshield so we can add a downforce?” When he returned to Mitchell, he began designing the prototype for a curved windshield, which would basically act like a spoiler and prevent the lift.

    Six years after it was introduced, the Flare Windshield—which retails for $179 to $199—is the top-selling part for the company, making up about 80 percent of its revenue.

    Although the windshield is fabricated from polycarbonate, the moral of the story applies to anyone fabricating a product from any material: Use all of your senses when observing the world around you; you just never know what might spark the next great product.

    Incidentally, Klock’s business began in a one-car garage.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209