“Ten years after graduating high school, BRCC Success Story Craig Billings, Jr., realized he wasn’t on the path to a solid career. Today he is the co-owner of Louisiana’s only manufacturer of Desktop 3D printers – Acadian Robotics.
After ignoring his family’s encouragement to attend college and study drafting or engineering, Craig went on to the United States Marine Corps., from which he received an honorable discharge two years later. The early stages of civilian life saw him bounce from job to job, but garnering real life experience in lighting controls and electronic systems.
It was 2006 when he realized that he didn’t have a career, and needed to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
“Someone close to me encouraged me to look at different technical schools to learn a trade,” he said. “I enrolled in Louisiana Technical College to learn drafting and design, along with the professional classes at BRCC, in order to get my Associates Degree.
It took me three years to complete school, due to having a full time job and taking off school a semester, but I pushed through and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Drafting and Design.”
Craig learned 3D modeling skills while working in the engineering field. In 2012, he began work at a large engineering firm in Baton Rouge, where he sat near his current business partner, Robert “Robb” Perkins.
“One day while looking online for some information, I saw 3D printing advertisements. It was the first time I really ever heard of 3D printing.”
Intent on buying a 3D printer, Craig said he turned to Robb and asked him if he had ever heard of them. The two discussed the high costs before coming to the decision that Craig would buy a kit version to learn the technology, as Robb assured him that he could build one for half the price.
“Twice the original amount and sometime later, we developed our own 3D printer – The Copperhead. Our intention never was to sell 3D printers, but once we realized that we built a machine everyone could use, the idea hit us, and Acadian Robotics was formed.”
Soon after, the team was joined by Robb’s wife, Bree, and the idea to branch out to area schools was born.
Bree Perkins, who has a masters degree in education, wrote the 3D printing curriculum that Acadian Robotics sells to schools with their printer. Acadian Robotics’ primary goal is to provide 3D printers, tech support, and the educational materials to every school, library, and museum in Louisiana and the rest of the country.
The team at Acadian Robotics has been quite successful in their goal.
Today Acadian Robotics is a number of parishes in Louisiana and some businesses around the country.
“Just like every small business, we face the challenge of getting a new idea to market. We believe that we can compete due to our 3D printer being unique.
Starting a business is not easy, but I am thankful to BRCC for preparing me for my future. The door is open for everyone. Sometimes the door may be bigger, smaller, or even feel more tightly shut to some – but persistence and never giving up is the key.”
While Craig noted that it wasn’t easy attending college while working, he kept his target goal in sight and kept pushing until he was through.
“Anyone can do what I have done and am doing.
Success is not defined by money, fame, or what things we may have. It is defined by giving whatever you set your mind to by giving it your best shot. Things may not work out as you planned but knowing that you gave all that you have to defy the odds is being successful.”
3D printers are used in three areas – business, education, and hobby. The main use for 3D printers is still prototyping, but people do many different things with 3D printers. Some people make molds to create jewelry. Others make custom phone cases to sell or create unique objects that cannot be made without extensive training or other machinery.
3D printers require a 3D model that is created in a computer design program such as AutoCAD, Sketch-up, or TinkerCAD. Once a 3D model is created, it is sent to another program that interfaces with the 3D printer to create the idea. With 3D printing you take your idea to a reality – you are able to touch your imagination.”
“When Craig Billings first became interested in 3-D printing, he was surprised at the expense and the low quality of the 3-D printer kit choices available.
“We took a look at it and said, ‘We think we can do better,’ ” he said of himself and business co-owners Robb Perkins and Edward Prejean, and started the process of collecting parts to create their own, higher-quality 3-D printer for less than the $10,000 asking price.
It didn’t go smoothly, at least at first.
They ended up spending about double that to get their initial printer going, but they figured it out quickly enough to start Louisiana’s first 3-D printer manufacturing business, Acadian Robotics, now headquartered in Gonzales.
Everyone from artists to entrepreneurs use the technology, Billings said, and he believes the 3-D printer is quickly becoming indispensable.”
“In a building for Prejean Computer Consultants on East Cornerview, just off Airline Highway, is a sign for the Copperhead 3D printer and Acadian Robotics.
When I visited their office of Ed Prejean, Craig Billings and Robb Perkins, I had to smile when I saw the company logo printed on paper. It was also taped to the glass window on the door of the office. Nothing screams “new company” like that.
Inside, purring like a kitten behind the front desk, a “Copperhead” 3D printer was making parts for another Copperhead. Billings gave me a tour and showed me items of different textures, colors and weight. They were all made by the printer.
Is this a tough sell?
“It’s very new,” Billings said. “It’s a ‘catch-22.’ We’re the only one in Louisiana that actually does this. The hard thing about it is starting out as a small business getting this new technology in Louisiana. Getting ‘who we are’ out there and ‘what 3D printers are,’ it’s the challenge, but we’re up for it.”
As we head down a hallway for a tour, we pass a storage room on the right with bins of ready-made nails, screws and other things for assembling parts. There are trays of wiring of different colors and electronic chips and panels. Craig explained that the printers are assembled and can be tooled to a client’s tasks.
The group is hoping to not just sell to businesses, but schools as well. The partners said they have managed to make this 3D printer for a base-price of just the kit with instructions to sell for $995 right now.
“The assembled ones are anywhere from $1,250 to $1,450 depending on special things. You can get them around the country, but the difference is we’re here. We offer tech support where you are and we’re accessible,” Billings added.
The kits weight about 50 pounds and can be shipped for about $50 unassembled. As we head to what is obviously the heartbeat of the unit’s construction, two men are at a table. Robb Perkins is examining wooden pieces and a construction that has wiring and a motor. Businessman Tommy Cowser of The Wade Group has brought in a model.
“We are making a prototype for a crawfish peeling machine,” Cowser said. “Is that cool or what?”
He has applied for provisional patents on a crawfish peeling machine that will turn out about 15 crawfish per minute. His wooden prototype is no bigger than a loaf of bread.
“We’re going to use our modeling and 3D printers to build him a prototype and a manufacturing model,” Perkins explained. “So, he can take that to a manufacturer.”
“That transition to manufacturing can be the most expensive part of the process. A 3D printer can make the part from which you cast a mold. That makes mass production possible. And, it’s lower in cost than the prototyping used to cost. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I knew this guy years ago that wanted to put a comb for a barber on a pair of scissors and to make the prototype, they told him it would cost $90,000. He just couldn’t do it. When now, today, I could do it for $1,000,” Billings said.
He tells of a woman starting a jewelry business in Gonzales who hired them to help her create molds for rings. She would mount stones on them.
“She sent us pictures off the internet of rings from the World War II era. I actually 3D modeled those had then printed them out and she sent them off to get them casted. She has a business. This saves her a lot of money,” Billings added.
The Copperhead is a combination of plastic and wood and component parts. In the corner of the room stands the machine for cutting the wood by computer.
Billings points to a formerly handheld router tool mounted on a carriage that slides over rods pointing three different directions down the production surface, so that it can make long transverse cuts. The router is controlled at a Hewlett-Packard keyboard nearby. The screen shows the dimensions the router will perform and by clicking it sends the carver on its way…cutting clear through the wood or ABS plastic, but also embossing with carved letters, recessed areas. The ideas are limitless.
Perkins usually does this part of the production.
“Like a 3D printer adds everything to make an item. Well, this one does the opposite. It removes everything that is NOT wanted. I draw up a diagram of it and turn it into a code the machine can read and hit ‘Start’ and let the machine cut it out,” he said.
Billings tells me how they dream of schools buying a Copperhead.
“It’s like science, technology, engineering, art and math in a box,” he said.
He thinks students will get a leg up on the future by assembling one of the kits. They simply need to follow the instructions and then produce their own 3D models.
“I can picture this,” I said. “It’s like ‘Invasion of the 3D Printers.’ It is sort of like the movie ‘Body Snatchers.’ We have a jewelry woman who carries one away and then, we have a school that comes and carries theirs away and hobbyists.”
Acadian Robotics is ready to supply anyone and everyone.
“Bakers? They can make custom wedding cake toppers,” Billings said.
Want to meet the Acadian Robotics gang or see a demonstration? The trio is in the office on Fridays after 1 p.m. at 1222 East Cornerview in Gonzales. Call 225-445-8913 for more information or visit the company’s website at www.acadianrobotics.com.
They’ll appear at the Goodwood Main Library in Baton Rouge on September 26 for this year’s Makers’ Faire.”
“Justin Woodring, 13, spends a lot of time at the Livingston Parish Library’s main branch using the 3-D printer.
“We see him all the time,” said J.D. Lovelace, branch manager, who teaches beginner 3-D design classes at the library — the basics of using 3-D design software to create objects with the printer.
Everyone, including artists and entrepreneurs, uses the technology, said Craig Billings, co-owner of Acadian Robotics in Gonzales, and he believes the 3-D printer is quickly becoming indispensable.
Lovelace said he’s seen several small-business owners come into their library to use the 3-D printer to design and test the fit and effectiveness of parts before they go to the trouble and expense of having them manufactured.
hat’s just one of many uses he’s noticed since the library got its printer a couple of years ago.
There was so much interest, in fact, that he invited Billings to the library to teach community members beginner classes on 3-D software programs like SketchUp.
“Sarah Columbo (another library employee) and I sat in on the classes, and learned the software well enough to start teaching them ourselves,” he said.”
Iron Man Helmet Project – 3D printing
If you have a 3d printer chances are that you have made an Iron Man Helmet or you are seriously thinking of making one. Or you possibly are looking to make some sort of armor, costume, or other type of COSplay item. I will show you my project and some of the tips and tricks (and failures) on my project. I will have to spread this project out over a few posts because it is quite an undertaking. So let’s Geauz!
Step 1: 3D printing/3D modeling
Even though this step is self explanatory this step is the most important part. If your 3d model and/or 3d print is not created properly then your whole project can be a disaster. As a matter of fact I had a massive failure while 3D printing my helmet. I almost finished the actual 3d prints and on the very last part it failed. But the great news is that I learned something in this part of the process. The part that failed was a 17 hour print and failed about 15 hours in. I was not there to witness the debacle so I had to figure out what to do. I made a video on my fix:
Make a Catapult at Home!
You only need a few things. A spoon, some rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, and some marshmallows or another object to throw that is not hard.The first step is grab five Popsicle sticks and stack them on top each other.
Now fasten them together and in order to do that use two rubber bands, one on each end. Take a rubber band then loop it on one end. Twist it around the stack with the open end. It doesn’t have to be pretty or neat. You just want it to the sticks together. Keep doing this holding the stack steady and looping the rubber band until it’s firm. Now do the same thing to the other end.
Now this is our main part of the catapult, the frame.
Next make the crossbar throwing arm. Take two sticks and do the same thing as before and that’s loop the rubber band around one end.
Then connect the two pieces over the five and hold them together.
Take a rubber band to connect the parts together. You have to hold these the whole time because they do want to slide apart from each other.
Make sure to get this main frame all the way down close to this rubber band end as possible.
The next thing to build is the throwing arm (launcher). This is the place to where you put your object, in this case the marshmallow, to throw it.
We are going to have to secure this spoon onto the arm using a rubber band. Make sure the spoon doesn’t come loose.
You are also are going to have to secure it on the bottom as tight as you can get it. But you have to be careful don’t pop your fingers because rubber bands pop.
Now place your object in the catapult.
Put one hand on the bottom to hold and you can pull back and let go.
This is kinetic energy. That’s energy of an object in motion.