Nampa 3D printing firm opens door to COVID-19 prevention

photo of slant 3d device
Slant 3D, a Nampa-based 3D printing company, has developed devices to help people avoid spreading germs by touching things. Photo courtesy of Slant 3D

Worldwide, people are using ingenuity — and 3D printers — to deal with COVID-19 issues such as developing replacements for outdated parts or substitutes for high-quality masks. Idaho-based 3D printing companies are no exception.

“We have dedicated nearly 100 3D printers to producing plastic parts to help in the efforts,” said Gabe Bentz, CEO of Slant 3D, a Nampa-based 3D printer farm, in an email message. “These include simple aids to help with social distancing and avoiding contact with surfaces, to manufacturing masks.”

Can’t touch this

Normally, Slant 3D — which presented in February at the Investors Choice event in Salt Lake City — makes 10,000 to 15,000 parts per week of craft products, toys, small promotional products and small industrial products. But now it is turning its 3D printers to other uses.

For example, the company has developed plans for devices that allow people to open doors with either round or lever-style handles using their elbows rather than their hands. Another device lets people grab switches without having to touch them with their hands.

photo of gabe bentz
Gabe Bentz

The items can be ordered by medical professionals as well as the general public, Bentz said.

In addition to printing out the devices themselves, Slant 3D has also released copies of the plans on its website to let people with 3D printers in other regions take advantage of the design.

Making masks

The company is also working on plans to manufacture masks, Bentz said.

“We are working with a number of designers to get a mask, shield and ventilator pieces implemented as well,” he said. “Today we could produce nearly 1,000 masks per day if necessary. But the design process is taking some time to optimize them for additive production.”

Bentz also expressed interest in working with Idaho medical personnel on the products, both in design and use.

“If there are medical personnel in the valley that would have time to consult on design and function, that would be of great help,” he said. “If any medical professionals need assistance in this area, they should not hesitate to reach out.”

Catching up with Slant 3D, as it builds a 3D printing empire

photo of slant 3d printer farm
Slant 3D’s more than 100 3D printers in its printer farm print from 10,000 to 15,000 parts per week. Photo courtesy of Slant 3D

“Perfect teleportation” may sound like a sci-fi term, but for a Nampa 3D printing company, it’s a key to success.

Slant 3D’s prototyping printer, The Mason – which is itself 3D printed – helps companies finalize their design before Slant 3D starts printing in bulk on its array of more than 100 3D printers.

“We were in the beta for the Mason and are going to keep it,” said Ben Peterson, designer at Wacky Bobbers, which makes a line of novelty fishing bobbers. The company has been using Slant 3D for production of a number of its products, and tried the Mason to see whether it could eliminate a delay of a couple of weeks due to shipping parts back and forth for verification sampling, he said.

“So far it has worked out,” Peterson said. “The Mason basically allows for perfect teleportation of our parts. Instead of sending samples and test prints back and forth, Slant 3D either prints out samples remotely on our Mason for us to evaluate, or we tweak prototypes and send the final digital files to Slant 3D for production. It has cut down design and verification time by weeks, and lets us move into production without intermediate steps.”

photo of gabe bentz
Gabe Bentz

The printer also helps Slant 3D.

“What we do is production 3D printing – really high volumes of plastic parts,” said CEO Gabe Bentz.

Its clients have to do the prototyping and sampling, so Slant 3D designed the printer to help get those out.

“As soon as it’s prepared, they can send it to us, and we can make ten thousand of their parts,” he said. “It creates a perfect pipeline without any intermediary.”

Currently housed in the Small Business Development Center Business Accelerator in Nampa, Slant 3D’s clients are largely national and international, including household names such as Amazon and Nickelodeon.

“California is a good chunk,” Bentz said. “Idaho is not a large fraction of it.”

House of Design, Bestbath, and Three Rivers Seed Co. are among the local clients.

Clients also include early-stage projects for Kickstarter, craft products, toys, small promotional products and small industrial products, he said. The company products 10,000 to 15,000 parts per week, he said, all with just a handful of staff. Two employees work remotely in Hong Kong and Corpus Christi, Texas, on software and design, while two in-house technicians run the printers.

The Mason is available at prices ranging from $750 to $1000, depending on bundled services such as design and preparation. So far Slant 3D has sold more than 10, but fewer than 100, Bentz said.

photo of mason 3d printer
The Mason 3D printers help Slant 3D and its clients develop prototypes. Photo courtesy of Slant 3D

With the success of the Mason, the company may be doubling its staff this year.

“That’s the roadmap,” Bentz said.

Slant 3D will be building the Masons, as well as adding a second factory at an undetermined Nampa location to add more printers.

Why Nampa? There’s room, Bentz said.

The community – including some Slant 3D clients – is also manufacturing-based.

“You can build out warehousing and factory floors,” he said.

Bentz got into the business three years ago, when he ran a company called Slant Concepts.

“We had created a series of products that we didn’t expect to be successful, so we designed them to be 3D-printed,” he explained.

When they took off, he had to design a printer farm to produce them.

“As we scaled it up, we realized it was economically viable, so we spun it off.”

Later this year or early next, the company will start looking for investors, Bentz said.