(WINDSOR, ON) – Parker Drouillard is a man on a mission. Within six years he wants to be on top of what is considered a destructive technology. It is one able to potentially decimate one of Windsor’s key industries.
Over the past three years he has been polishing his expertise in additive manufacturing, or what is commonly known as 3D printing. Drouillard is so involved in the technology, he actually makes his own 3D printers.
This new way of manufacturing relies on applying layers of plastic, or more recently metal, to create parts or products. There is no injection molding and minimal milling, thus almost no waste. And because of that, it could end the need for tool, mold, and die makers, a significant pillar of the local economy.
First seen over 35 years ago, the technology is only now coming into its own, particularly in applications such as mold-making and in producing unique or customized products without the need to first create innumerable molds.
Because, as the Wall Street Journal noted in its report The Future of Everything, released on October 27, “… it has remained mostly a novelty,” there are those who doubt additive manufacturing will have much impact.
Repeatedly he has been told the technology will have little chance as a replacement for modern day injection molding, but he has a different view. Within six years Drouillard expects such comments will become as much a part of history as mold making itself.
There is reason for his optimism and it revolves around time and money.
Most of the plastic products in use today are created during a complex process in which hot plastic is inserted into a mold. This has spawned a whole local industry of mold, tool, and die makers. Most can trace their roots to International Tool, which opened in 1945.
Up until now, molds have been the staple of making just about everything plastic, including automobile parts and a host of other products. But, producing molds takes time.
Drouillard told The Square, that it can take three months or longer just to make just one mold. In a matter of a few weeks he can design a part and print it without a mold and at a fraction of the cost.
His young company, Pepco, works out of a small office at the University of Windsor’s Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation. With a recently won contract to make printed parts for a major manufacturer, he has, as they might say in Houston, achieved lift-off.
Will Pepco do for 3D printing what International Tool did for mold making? Time will tell.