Innosek of Buffalo, New York is using the power of 3D printing to lower the barrier of entry to plastics manufacturing. John Kappel, Innosek’s owner, wants you to know that 3D printing isn’t just for prototyping – and that his company is more than just a service bureau. Find out what 3D printing can do for your business, and how Innosek has successfully leveraged resources from New York State.
Listen to the Podcast
Steve Melito: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito, and today we’re talking to John Kappel, the owner of Innosek in Buffalo, New York. John, welcome to the podcast.
John Kappel: Steve, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to be here.
Steve Melito: It is great to have you here. And John, let’s start by having you tell us about Innosek. What do you do and what do you do better than anybody else?
John Kappel: Sure, good question. So Innosek is a four- year- old additive manufacturing company. We focus a lot on contract manufacturing, making it a lot easier for our customers to reap all those benefits of 3D printing without the headaches, risks, and the high costs associated with bringing it in- house. So our main core is around helping the customers validate their designs, products and markets, as well as doing some low volume end use, 3D printing solutions.
Steve Melito: Hey, that’s great. And John, what are some of the industries that you serve and some of the projects that you’ve completed?
John Kappel: We really like to keep our company differentiated by being more engineering driven. So our end use customer, design engineers, engineers within electronics, manufacturing companies, engineering firms themselves. And we’ve seen a big uptick in the automotive and oil and gas industry starting to bring on additive manufacturing. So we’re able to play a big part in allowing them to experiment with how 3D printing could shape their processes as well as their products.
Steve Melito: Ah, that’s fantastic. So a lot of people think that 3D printing is really just good for prototyping. What would you say to them about that?
John Kappel: That is the biggest misconception that I always get. It’s really taken off the technology and it’s been evolving so much with the new machines that are coming out, the new software, all the new materials that are getting developed pretty much every day. We’re starting to see a huge shift into not only fast high volume prototyping, but end use production parts. Some of the newer technologies like selective laser centering and metal 3D printing have really opened up the doors to some really high quality parts that large companies all across the world are utilizing inside of their machines, inside of their cars, inside of a lot of their products. So we’re really starting it take shape across the whole landscape of manufacturing, which I’m super excited about.
Steve Melito: Well good. And let’s stick with some of these misconceptions, because I think they’re fun to bring out because one of the things that I hear about is, people think that companies that provide 3D printing services, they don’t do anything else. They’re really just service bureaus, a one trick pony. What would you say about that?
John Kappel: Probably a lot of the 3D printing companies out there are, and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to really look end to end with a full product lifecycle. So we work with a large multinational company now, where they had a product that they’ve been using, a legacy product, for a hundred years say, and with additive manufacturing and its counterparts of 3D design and designing four specifically 3D printing, it allowed them to take multiple manufacturing processes and dumb it down into one. So it allowed them to innovate their legacy product and then make it cheaper to make, faster to make and still maintaining the same strength and effectiveness. So it’s great to really be able to look end to end of the product, from design to prototyping to even integrating off the shelf hardware components into the 3D print and really being able to deliver an end use product. So 3D printing might’ve started with just prototyping, but now it’s pretty much changing the game and turning into a one- stop shop for end- to- end product development, not just prototyping.
Steve Melito: A lot more there than meets the eye. You had mentioned about materials and the end use properties and the fact that more materials are available now than before. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? I mean, what do people need to know about the state of materials that are used in 3D printing?
John Kappel: It’s always growing. It started out with the typical thermoplastics, PLA was the most popular, but although it has great strength, it’s all about use case. So that’s where we’ve really found that having that engineering mindset where somebody can say, ” Hey, here’s a spec sheet, this is the end use case. These are the pressures and temperatures that it’s withstanding.” Now, there’s so many materials available that we’re able to just jump right in and take that information and find something that’s applicable to them. So it’s very use case specific. And this wide range from poly carbonates to carbon fibers to really flexible materials to nylons, it’s really taking off and it’s something that we’re super excited about as being in the industry because we are in D Materials on our printers all the time. So we were constantly introducing new materials and giving that offering to our customers. ESD, Electrostatic Dispersive material, has been extremely popular for all of our electronics companies, and that’s a material that’s probably only come out in the last couple years. So not a lot of people are offering these higher end engineering driven materials, but if I think that’s a big opportunity where we’re going to start to see that more readily available as the industry starts to shape out.
Steve Melito: That’s excellent. And John, Innosek has been great about taking advantage of opportunities, and one I’d like to talk about a little bit is how Innosek won a COVID-19 manufacturing grant from FuzeHub. And could you tell us more about that and what the project was like?
John Kappel: It was a blessing. It was really cool. I think the weekend COVID hit and everything started shutting down, our executive team sat down and said, ” Hey, how can we play a role?” 3D printing has been extremely helpful in making PPE, so we knew that that was going to be the route. So not only were we able to manufacture and assemble face shields, but with the FuzeHub grant, we were able to purchase nine more 3D printers, which really gave us an extra couple hundred units per day that we were able to 3D print and assemble. Eventually the end use of that was 50, 000 face shields went out to Sacramento Medical Center out in California and the FuzeHub grant was great for us because it was very effective, made a huge impact, and it was speed. With COVID, everything needed to be fast, fast, fast. And luckily FuzeHub had that on deck and allowed us to play a major role in the fight against coronavirus and protecting our nurses and our doctors across the country. So it’s been huge. We were able to grow our team a little bit more for this project. So we had some direct economic development on our end here in Buffalo and we love working with you guys. So the more opportunities that we can join forces and help fight the good fight, then so be it.
Steve Melito: Absolutely. And it’s just a great story about what you did with that grant and the good things that came from it. Have you worked with other New York state funded resources as well, John?
John Kappel: None as fun as you guys. I’ll say that. Yeah, we love the guys at FuzeHub and I think a lot of it stems from the network that we made at FuzeHub. So we have worked with ESD, Empire State Development. We have some grant programs out here in Buffalo through National Grid that we’re following up of and actively involved in. So really so happy that New York state is so great to manufacturers and understands the needs that we have and the direct impact we have on our communities. And all these New York state funded resources have been huge helps to all of us, small and medium sized businesses here, not only from staying alive during COVID, but also thriving. So the great resources and greatly appreciated for everybody in New York State that plays a role in the funding.
Steve Melito: That’s great to hear. And thriving is certainly something that Innosek does. Tell us about a prize that you won recently and it sounds like you’ve moved recently as well. You got a lot going on.
John Kappel: Big things in our future, Steve. Yeah, we’re really excited for our new direction. We’ve had some great support in our community. So the award we just got introduced was the Community Involvement Award from Buffalo Business First. It’s a part of their manufacturing awards that they do every year for the past 50 plus years. So it’s something that I’m super, super proud about as an owner. Community is one of our top core values in our company, and to be able to win an award really speaks wonders to the team that we have, the community that we can get out there and make such an impact. And we love to show face. We love to meet people, we love to volunteer and get involved because we’re all in this together and everybody that goes out there, plays a part in the community, is making an impact. So it’s something that we hold our heads high about and we’re excited to see what we can win next year, like moving. It’s just hand in hand. Things change so quickly. As a small business, it’s always evolving. This new space is bigger, it’s going to allow us to do more work, add a couple more 3D printers to the mix, some new technologies. The sky’s the limit and that’s the way that we always look at it. What’s next? What’s the next opportunity that we can take? And being in an innovative industry, we need to make sure that we’re always innovating as much as possible and always growing.
Steve Melito: Absolutely. So John, one more question if I may. And it could be the hardest one because if I had asked this question in 2019, the answer would probably change, because COVID, which was just a traumatic, terrible event happened. But where do you see Innosek, in say, five years from now?
John Kappel: We bootstrapped our company right out of Buffalo, and with the help of FuzeHub and some other great companies across New York state, we’re really starting to take over New York State as a premiere 3D printing company in the state. I mean, that’s something I really want to drive is that in New York state, I want to be looked at as the additive manufacturing resource for all of our companies here. Whether it’s thinking about bringing in new technologies or additive manufacturing, but not really sure how or what’s the right option, giving people the accessibility and the ease of 3D printing. It’s just going to help grow the manufacturing industry as a whole. So I’m really excited to continue that journey and then really expanding across the nation. There’s a lot of national competitors in the 3D printing industry, but what I’ve been finding in our research is they don’t really take as much engineering care to understand the correct orientation of your model and the way it needs to be printed or the right material. A lot of that is up to the end user. But in our instance, the end user doesn’t really know about all the 3D printing as much. So it’s on us to really work hand in hand with them to find the right solutions. And hopefully we can take over the country and build an empire around additive manufacturing right here in New York state. It’s something that I’m super passionate about and the team’s on board and we’re making moves every day to make that happen.
Steve Melito: I love it. The sky is the limit. John Kappel from Innosek, thank you so much for being with us on New York State Manufacturing Now.
John Kappel: Always a pleasure, Steve. Looking forward to it next time.
Steve Melito: Hey, before we wrap up here today, for everyone out there listening, if you’re a manufacturer of New York State, an inventor, or an entrepreneur, check out FuzeHub. Go to www.fuzehub.com and if you look at the homepage, you’ll find a button, a way to ask for an expert consultation. You’ll get to talk to a member of our manufacturing solutions team, learn about all the things that we can do, learn about what’s available, and our mission is to help you. So I hope to hear from you. So without further ado, on behalf of New York State Manufacturing Now, I’m your host, Steve Melito, signing off.