Aviation

RapidPSI uses 3-D printing to transform designs into parts

RapidPSI vice president Jeremy Weinman shows his company's industrial 3D printers.
RapidPSI vice president Jeremy Weinman shows his company's industrial 3D printers. The Wichita Eagle

When a local product development company wanted to develop a hands-free buoyancy control device for scuba divers, it turned to Wichita’s RapidPSI for help.

Using three-dimensional printing, RapidPSI turned multiple revisions of the product into a smaller, more reliable unit that’s now ready to market.

The growing company takes 3-D computer-aided design drawings, or CAD, and using a 3-D printer, builds up objects in three dimensions, layer by layer.

Plastic materials are fed into the machine and heated “like a hot glue gun,” said RapidPSI vice president Jeremy Weinman. Essentially, the filaments are welded together.

“We’re a modern day machine shop,” Weinman said. It’s the largest 3-D printing company in Kansas, he said.

The 3-D printing process eliminates waste and the need for injection molding, set-up costs and the cutting, sanding and drilling found in traditional manufacturing methods.

Designs can be customized and changed easily.

“You just update the CAD model and send it over, and we can print out a new (part) the same day or the next day,” Weinman said.

The company, located at 1367 S. Anna, has changed a lot over the past five years.

Five years ago, about 80 percent of its business was urethane casting and the making of products from polyurethane materials, Weinman said.

The company used 3-D printing to make the tooling, then produced the parts in its casting division.

Now, that’s only about 20 percent of its business. Eighty percent is building prototypes and production parts through the 3-D printing process.

The majority of RapidPSI’s work is for the aviation industry, where lightweight materials are critical.

The company builds more than 200 production parts for aircraft, such as tooling, holding fixtures, transition ducts, control sticks, louvers and vents. It also builds products for the agricultural, automotive and the consumer industries.

A dog toy producer used RapidPSI to build a prototype of a toy that shoots a tennis ball for a dog to play with. An airplane manufacturer worked with RapidPSI to build a control stick that fits a pilot’s grip, the manufacturer of the Knork, a cross between a fork and knife, used the company to build that prototype as well as a prototype of a chef’s knife and steak knives that are comfortable to hold.

Italso has built fenders for zero-turn lawn mowers and a host of other products.

The 3-D process is ideal for objects that don’t require mass production.

RapidPSI was founded in 1998 by Paul Britt as Rapid Processing Solutions. Britt died in 2011.

Now, the company is owned by three investors, including Weinman.

It’s a growing business. The company is on track for revenue to be up 20 percent this year over 2013.

Last year, revenue grew almost 50 percent over the year before.

RapidPSI has also been adding machines.

The company had one machine in 2009. It added four machines this year and now has 12.

Next year, it plans to add at least four more, Weinman said.

The goal is to have 20 machines by 2016 and 40 or so in about five years, Weinman said.

Depending on their size and capabilities, the machines cost anywhere from $120,000 to $600,000.

Once it grows to 30 machines, RapidPSI will have to move or add a second location.

The company operates with five employees, although it may add one or two more employees next year, Weinman said.

Before the downturn, it employed 15 but made cuts with the economic recession.

Now that sales are up, the focus of its work has shifted and fewer people are needed.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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