The Silicon Review
“We are thought leaders in sustainability practices and custom materials selection.”
3-D printing is an unstoppable force. Not too long ago, the printing speed and limited output of 3-D printers made them suitable only for rapid prototyping. But in the coming years, 3-D printers will be at the heart of full-scale production capabilities in several industries, from aerospace to automotive to health care to fashion.
In light of the former, we’re thrilled to present Terrafilum®.
The company provides 3D printer users with the highest-quality, eco-friendly filament solutions on the market for all of their printing needs.
Terrafilum® was incorporated in 2017 and is headquartered in Cary, Illinois.
Chris Jackson, Terrafilum® President, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Why was the company set up? How did you select the vertical and decide to be a part of the global platform?
Terrafilum® was established because we witnessed a need for solution providers in the additive manufacturing space. The marketplace is flooded with resellers of materials from China, but there are few US manufacturers and even fewer manufacturers who will work with customers to meet their unique needs.
Large equipment manufacturers are now using these printed parts in fixturing applications and sometimes even end-use applications. With these industry changes, material knowledge becomes invaluable. The abilities to adjust FDM materials to extend part cycle-life, to improve print speed, to decrease print errors, and to utilize biodegradable or recycled components can help to propel US manufacturing forward while remaining environmentally conscious.
Tell us about your first product that was launched?
Terrafilum®’s first products were the industry standard materials, PLA, and ABS. What I regard as our first real product was our PLA/TPU. The raw material choice and formulations were strategic, and the end result withstood some rigorous mechanical tests. A university space consortium tested this material to -70°C and put the printed structure in the stratosphere to 100,000 feet. The material withstood a drop from altitude and provided a sound structure for their testing.
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
The first solutions related project we got into involved a large equipment manufacturer who needed larger quantities of filament. He produced prints that were 15 – 25 lbs a print and could only get 10 lb spools. We worked with him to produce 25 lb spools of material. We created refillable spools and packaging. Now he doesn’t have to start and stop his prints, reducing his downtime while being more environmentally conscious.
What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
Every company goes through growing pains in order to come to solutions that work for both them and their customers. One of our customers had warping concerns on one of his prints. Elastomers can occasionally have trouble adhering to the print surface. We worked through a number of possible solutions together. Our test print held up under these conditions, but his part did not. Ultimately, we ended up altering our formulation slightly to address his concerns. He now has a print that works, and we have valuable feedback for the future.
What challenges did you face in your initial years? What can your peers learn from it?
Brand recognition! The costs of SEO are astounding and often prohibitive for small businesses. Not being on the first page of GoogleSearch Results can hurt your chances of business, but it isn’t the only way to market. Reach out to people on Linkedin, make in-person connections with people, do print advertising, go to trade shows, and so on. That more personal touch can sometimes be just the thing.
What were the grounds on which you have expanded your company and its offerings over the years?
We set our development goals high by stretching the limits using complex resins and sustainable materials. We never lost sight of the fact that our consultative services and sustainability programs coupled with our unique product line were our foundation. This strategy has helped us define a path to success.
Using that going forward, we have expanded our material selection into progressively more advanced materials. PET, TPE, TPU, elastomers with different shore hardness, and nylons are some examples of recent developments.
Are there any trigger factors/events/individuals that have played key roles in shaping your organization’s road map?
Setting up a large sustainability program with a very large fortune 100 company really catapulted our business. It showed that we could be flexible, develop innovative solutions, and sustain growth. In addition, our early adopters really influenced our products and helped us shape our materials platform.
What drives/inspires you to excel in your field of business?
Exponential population growth, pollution, and dwindling resources are indications that during my lifetime there could be profound ramifications for our actions as a species. We endeavor to do our part in sustainability ventures. It is an obligation we all share to reuse resources and clean up after ourselves with biodegradable materials whenever possible. The idea that we can service not only the industry but also a greater global good motivates me every day.
How does your company contribute to the global IT platform and society at large?
Terrafilum® contributes to society at large through sustainability practices. Utilizing recycled plastics, recycling spools, and regrinding waste material are a few examples of these practices.
We have a global web presence. We are thought leaders in sustainability practices and custom materials selection. We believe that being part of the global community helps us tackle the most important challenges by developing the best material solutions.
Do you have any new products ready to be rolled out into the market?
We just signed a mutual development agreement with XG Sciences to produce a line of graphene filament. This could extend into ESD protected filament, electrically conductive filament, and more.
Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
The 3D printing market has grown by double digits every year. The interesting part is that the material market hasn’t. Much of this is due to the low cost and low-quality import products. Materials can be altered to make them less costly but at the price of material specifications. We choose not to play that game. Our customers demand quality and material properties that perform. We’ve seen the same growth as the marketplace due to our solutions capability coupled with our material performance. On the back of these core capabilities, we will expand into adjacent markets to bolster our position. We feel that supporting the US industry and small businesses with US small business is the path to success.
Chris Jackson: A Formidable Leader
Chris Jackson is the President of Terrafilum®. He has been a prominent influencer in the plastics production industry for the better part of 30 years in both development and engineering. Mr Jackson managed multiple plastics facilities for an industry segment of General Electric and has had numerous product responsibilities.
“We’ve taken great care to create several types of recycled and recyclable filaments to meet any level of demand required by our clients…big or small. Whether your project requires custom filaments for large-scale industrial projects or needs to meet strict engineering design requirements, we have you covered from start to finish.”