Alumni Corner: Juggerbot 3D

Nobody works harder than YSU STEM students and alumni. Anybody can look at YSU STEM success stories and see that. Big ideas and friendship took three industrial engineering alumni to the Youngstown Business Incubator. These alumni are so hardworking and believe in their project so much that they are dedicating over 25 hours a week (in addition to their 40-50 hour a week jobs) to develop what they are hoping to be a juggernaut of the desktop 3D printing industry: Juggerbot 3D.

imageJim D’Andrea, Zac DiVencenzo and Dan Fernback are the pioneers of Juggerbot 3D. All three were industrial engineering majors at YSU. Jim and Dan graduated in May 2014, and Zac graduated in December 2014.

Before graduation, the three alumni became the guinea pigs of additive manufacturing at YSU.

“When the 3D printers first came into YSU, it just fell right into our laps. It came into the room that we liked to study. We got to take part in some of the projects down there that involved additive manufacturing,” Zac said.“Dan, Jim and I kind of participated as student ambassadors for additive manufacturing. So toward the end of our junior year we had plenty of ideas how we wanted to start a business and how we wanted to get into additive manufacturing.”

Jim and Dan already had some ideas they were running past each other, including installing a 3D printing kiosk in the main lobby of Moser Hall. From there, Jim and Zac worked together to design and manufacture a kiosk, and then tinkered with the YSU machines. Funds for this project were provided by Mrs. Patsy Bakos in memory of her late husband Jack Bakos, who was a very dedicated professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. The kiosks were then put out for student use. Zac said that’s when they realized “this is where it’s at.”

After Jim and Dan graduated in may, the trio still met up at local coffee shops to talk about pursuing a larger project. Through those talks they decided that they should make the 3D printers faster, along with other ideas. Soon, they decided they should try to get some space in the Youngstown Business Incubator.

While in the YBI Inspire Lab and in their work space, the Juggerbot 3D team produced their first prototype. The team wants to engage with local companies to do test runs, and they hope to launch the company fully and go to market come 2016.

Juggerbot 3D hopes to some day move onto working with metal printers, but for now they’re focusing on thermoplastic filament 3D printers.

“When you get into the thermoplastic filament printers, you have your desktops and your industrial grade printers, but there’s not a lot of in between,” Jim said. “Your industrial grade printers run anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000. Whereas a desktop, the nice ones are $4,000 to $6,000 but they go all the way down to a couple hundred dollars. So what we’re doing is we’re trying to create a desktop 3D printer that prints industrial grade parts.”

The biggest thing Juggerbot is going to tackle is quality.

“The parts that [most desktop printers] print end up being very poor quality, and we think with our designs and our ideas, we can kind of take some of the best parts of the desktop printer — like size and it’s agility — but get high quality parts off of them. [We want to make] something that prints industrial grade parts and can sit on your desk,” Jim said.

Jim stressed that Juggerbot is in the perfect location to continue its journey.

“We couldn’t have graduated from a better school in a better location,” Jim said. “And everything’s been working out perfectly. We’re at the number one university affiliated business incubator in the world, right down the street from YSU,” Jim said. “We’re all graduates. We know the professors up there, and they’re constantly graduating high-caliber students. America Makes is right in our back yard, the national research development center for additive manufacturing.”

Zac echoed Jim’s love for the area.

“We can’t come back enough and say how much [YBI] have given us,” he said. “They’ve given us a home. We started in their inspire lab. Jim Cossler has pushed us down the path that we’re on. … He is a true mentor, and he is a true entrepreneur in residence.”