For the officers of B9 Creations, a Rapid City-based 3D printing company, their new venture is a chance to return to the Black Hills.
There’s a certain allure of the Black Hills that intrigues people to not only visit, but eventually plant roots and call it home. That’s how the story goes for Mike Joyce, CEO of B9 Creations, LLC, and his colleagues Scott Reisenauer, chief operating officer, and Shon Anderson, company vice president. All three men left South Dakota only to find their way back to settle down and raise their families.
“I was born in De Smet, S.D., attended the School of Mines in Rapid City, and then spent the next 20 years following my career around the United States,” Anderson said. “It was kind of the running joke back then that South Dakota ‘exports its most valuable asset, its young people’ so it’s nice to see that finally turning around.”
Mike, a retired pilot for the United States Air Force, was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in the course of his career. Like many, Mike and his family loved the quality of life found in the Black Hills and made the decision to remain in South Dakota when Mike left the Air Force.
Scott, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from SDSM&T, loves to call the Black Hills his home.
“I am blessed to call this place home for the past 15 years,” he said. “I make it a point to encourage graduates to explore opportunities with high-tech companies in South Dakota. I hope other entrepreneurs will see the benefits of doing business here as well.”
So how did B9 Creations begin?
“Basically, Mike was looking for a better quality, more affordable product because everything available at the time was and still is rather expensive. So he used his background in mathematics and software development to build and refine a prototype for his own high-resolution 3D printer,” Anderson said. “And B9 Creations was born.”
Joyce used the online crowdfunding site Kickstarter to get the startup off the ground, raising more than $500,000 to get production started and conducted a second Kickstarter campaign months later, generating sales of another $250,000+.
During the first Kickstarter campaign, jewelers became excited about what he was creating, being impressed with the B9Creator’s ability to produce even the finest details in a material that was castable in their traditional lost-wax process.
“From that beginning two years ago, B9Creations has grown to fill a 4,000 square-foot facility and has more than 1,000 machines in use around the world today,” Anderson said.
Anderson says that what sets B9 apart from its competitors is the price point of B9Creations’ technology. 3D Printing and Advanced Manufacturing have been around for years but at a cost that was out of reach for most small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies. Many of those companies utilize service providers for rapid prototyping, and production of finished parts.
Often times, those parts suppliers require large minimum orders and have long lead times, making it difficult to implement product updates or design changes as quickly as owners would like. With the ability to print the parts in-house, lead times shrink to just hours and design changes can be tested and implemented in a matter of hours.
While 3D Printing isn’t a fit for volumes of parts in the hundreds per month, it can be a great fit and offer fast paybacks when even a few small parts are identified that can be produced in-house for under a couple of dollars in the dozens a month.
The Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology uses their B9Creator to produce consumable parts for some of their large, expensive machines. The material cost of producing these parts with the B9Creator saves hundreds of dollars versus ordering them.
Utilizing growth potential
In the past eight months, B9Creations has grown from employing two people to currently employing five full-time people, two interns, and a part-time person. One of the additions to the team and fellow SDSM&T alumnus, Scott Reisenauer, serves as the company’s chief operating officer, bringing 20 years of experience in high-tech manufacturing to the team.
Eight months ago, the company moved into the Black Hills Business Development Center. The interns, Anderson says, are able to work for them thanks to the Dakota Seeds program, a Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) internship program. One of the interns will transition to full-time when he graduates from SDSM&T in May with the goal to hire the other upon graduation as well.
“The Dakota Seeds program is great because it establishes a pipeline for permanent employees and that’s exactly what we’re hoping to accomplish with our interns,” said Anderson. “I’ve utilized other programs offered through the GOED as well and found them to be a tremendous asset to growing businesses and recruiting workforce. Whether you’re a start-up like we are or a company with locations all over the state, the GOED has some excellent programs to help you find the right talent and funding to assist with bringing people on-board.”
Anderson says B9Creations is ready to expand and show off its product and its capabilities. The company is hosting an open house in their facility at the Black Hills Business Development Center on Wed., March 25, from 4-6:00 p.m.
For more information about Dakota Seeds and other funding, visit www.sdreadytowork.com.