The pattern of success
The last five years for Hoosier Pattern have been associated with strong growth due to the company beginning to offer 3D sand printing services to hundreds of its customers
Hoosier Pattern is among the selected few companies in the USA that operates a 3D sand printer. What is more, until recently, it was the only facility that housed not one, but two of these to print molds and cores for foundry use. Formed just over 20 years ago by current owner Keith Gerber and two of his business partners, Hoosier Pattern has reached a strong position in the manufacturing industry as a leading custom pattern and tooling shop, thanks to the extensive range of machines it operates, and the close cooperation with multiple foundries it has established and nurtures to date. Today, Mr. Gerber remains the sole owner of the business, which employs around 50 people in its factory in Decatur, Indiana, spanning 85,000 square feet.
“We have over 25 machining centers, including 18 vertical, three horizontal, two CNC lathes, two EDMs, as well as a brand new 5-axis mill, which we added in 2017 that will help us manufacture more individual components for some of our customers,” Hoosier Pattern’s Customer Care & Additive Manufacturing Manager, Dave Rittmeyer tells us. “However, the real growth for us started when we bought our first 3D sand printer in July 2013. A year later, a customer purchased a printer and placed it at our facility, and come the summer of 2018, we are bringing another one in-house that will be owned by Hoosier.”
3D printing has been known to manufacturers for over 30 years, but it was not until the end of the 2000s that it really became a trending technology with benefits for users plain to see. “It really allows you to shorten lead times,” Dave notes, “and is a lot more accurate. For example, if you have to produce a complex casting that takes a lot of core assemblies, you are now able to print them as a single piece. It helps eliminate casting defects that might have been caused by flash or misassembly, thus reducing scrap greatly. It also really speeds the process up. For example, we have had clients who on multiple occasions needed to do their casting in a hurry, say, within a week. Using the new technology, we were able to deliver on time as we always do.”
One of the biggest strengths of Hoosier Pattern, which also makes the company unique, and a preferred partner, is its ability to run both subtractive and additive manufacturing processes under one roof in its facility in Decatur. “No one else is doing all we do in-house. By combining different technologies, we add real value, cut lead times, reduce cost, and get better quality,” Dave says. “Another core strength of ours is the foundry knowledge we have built over the years, because we work with foundries every single day and we have got to understand what they need and how we can address their problems.”
To secure the future of the business, Hoosier Pattern has set up an apprenticeship program with the US Department of Labor, which consists of 10,000 working hours and 12 classes taken at IVY Tech Community College. During the time of the program, the apprentices learn all the different techniques of manufacturing, starting with benching and assembling tooling, continuing with operation of CMM and laser scanners, programing machining centers, and finally, modeling tooling. By the end of the apprenticeship, the new members of staff will have gained real insight of the foundries’ key requirements, thus helping the company build upon its knowledge base and expertise.
As a business committed to encouraging innovation and discovering original solutions to present to its customers, it is no wonder that Hoosier Pattern constantly searches for ways to optimize its services. “We are currently looking to find different consumables for the machines, in order to reduce costs. We have already started printing with black iron oxide, which works very well for large and heavy iron and steel castings, and we are shortly beginning to print with ceramics,” Dave discusses the latest notable advancements in the business’ R&D area.
Hoosier Pattern serves numerous industries beside the foundry, including automotive, consumer appliances, and agricultural, and Dave sees potential for growth in each of these, as well as from the airspace and oil and gas industries. He owes this to more professionals realizing the value of 3D printing, especially with regards to its time-efficiency, and is confident that the growth will continue. “I certainly expect a bright future for the technology and this is the reason why we are buying the third printer this summer. It is a substantial investment, because a new 3D printer costs over $1 million, but we believe it is worthwhile. Our customer base has extended considerably in the past five years, and once companies have trialled 3D printing, they start to use it more regularly. If one foundry uses it, its competitors are almost guaranteed to follow suit very soon,” Dave trusts.
All the pieces that assemble Hoosier Pattern’s route to success seem to have fallen in place. Drawing upon an ever-expanding customer list and an impressive combination of modern technologies, the Midwest company can look bravely into what promises to be an exciting future.
Services: 3D sand printing, FDM printing, foundry tooling, rapid prototyping, CNC manufacturing