3D printers and contract manufacturing
Denkers started the business now known as IOFX Additive Manufacturing as a hobby.
However, when consolidation threatened his day job, he decided to focus on 3D printing full-time. He says he quickly got frustrated with the reliability of 3D printers made by Chinese manufacturers, so he started making his own to print with and sell to outside customers.
Printers now represent about 90 percent of IOFX's sales. "The printers just took off, so we ended up downsizing a lot of the 3D printing side of the company and got more focused on building and selling printers at that point," says Denkers.
IOFX's printers, which start at $6,000, allow for tight tolerances and large formats. The differentiator is in "the quality of the parts," says Denkers. "For example, most of our competitors use an $8 main board. We use a $300 board. We use a $500 hot end. Competitors use a $10 hot end. The quality of the parts we use on our machines is next-level."
Despite the premium componentry, IOFX leverages open-source technologies to hit a price point that's notably lower than most competitors.
Using a network of primarily domestic suppliers, IOFX builds the printers in-house in Tremonton. "We make them here in Utah from scratch," says Denkers. "We start with our extrusions that we buy in Clearfield at Bonnell Aluminum. We make a frame, and then a lot of the other parts come from various places in the U.S."
IOFX's market for contract manufacturing is notably diverse. "It's really all over the map," says Denkers. "We get customers from all sorts of industries right now for printing, anywhere from hobbyists in cosplay all the way to Northrop Grumman."
The company can also help customers with design for additive manufacturing. "If you've got an idea for a product, we can take that idea and design it, model it, 3D-print it, and then even take you all the way into production with it with injection molding or vacuum molding. We've got resources to do that as well."
Charlotte-based Let's Talk Interactive (LTI) acquired the business, then branded BD3D Customs, in 2022. LTI had been printing parts for the company's medical products with Denkers' machines before the deal.
Sales have snowballed from about $60,000 in year one. Denkers is forecasting "at least $2 million" for 2023.
Challenges: "Our biggest challenge right now is making customers aware of the possibilities," says Denkers. "People just don't realize what you can do with a 3D printer. . . . You can produce a part that's a third the weight of the next competitor and be able to produce geometries that you just can't produce with injection molding or CNC."
Opportunities: Denkers sees printer sales continuing to drive growth, as IOFX launches a new resin printer in spring 2023. The machine is priced at $50,000, just 20 percent the cost of many competitors' machines. "It will give even better detail on the prints and a better opportunity for investment casting," he says.
Needs: "Good marketing," says Denkers. "Doesn't everybody, though?"
IOFX also needs more space, and is eying a move from its 2,400-square-foot home in Tremonton to a 6,000-square-foot facility in Bear River City.