In 1998, Jim Hockey was installing commercial roll-up doors when he made a service call that changed his life. “I walked into the customer’s facility and saw lasers creating parts from a vat full of liquid photopolymer, and I was absolutely hooked. I had to learn more about 3D-printed parts and get a job in that industry. For the last 26 years, I’ve been a matchmaker between additive manufacturing [AM] technologies and the customers who will benefit from them.”Today, Hockey is director of business development at Incodema3D, based in Freeville, New York (just outside of Ithaca). The 55-person company began as a machine shop, started using AM for prototyping, narrowed its focus to metal additive for OEMs, and then narrowed it down even further to focus on making parts with laser powder bed fusion technology from EOS North America (IMTS booth #432302). Incodema3D focuses on aerospace, defense, energy, power generation, and a few other niche industrial applications. “Metal AM is now part of the traditional manufacturing process,” Hockey says. “It has become repeatable and dependable and is ready for production parts.” Serial ProducersIncodema3D is an acronym for invent, concept, design and manufacture. The company’s Freeville manufacturing facility applies a combination of additive and conventional technologies. The company has a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing space with about one-third dedicated to AM and a metrology room, one-third to metal removal for post-process work, and one-third available for growth. A short list of capabilities includes:23 EOS AM systems, including four EOS M 400-4 (which have four lasers and quadrant overlap) and four EOS M 300-4 (which have full field access for using all four lasers in concert).AM metal powders from EOS, 6K Additive (IMTS booth #433024), and GE Additive (IMTS booth #433200); materials include tool steels, stainless steel, titanium, Inconel, copper, titanium, and aluminum (AlSiv10Mg).Metal removal for post-process finishing and adding features: 10 machining centers from Haas (IMTS booth #338100), six Mitsubishi wire EDMs (IMTS booth #338129), and a Mazak i700 VARIAXIS (IMTS booth #338300) machining center with a PALLETECH SYSTEM for unattended operation.A Zeiss CONTURA CMM and COMET 3D (IMTS booth #134302) blue light vision system.Sean Whittaker, CEO of Incodema3D says, “Three years ago, 80% of our work was R&D development work. Today, we’re doing 90% production and 10% R&D development work.” He explains that aerospace and defense components have a long gestation cycle. The design-for-additive manufacturing (DFAM) work engineers did from 2014 to 2016 is coming to fruition now, and it’s changing the AM landscape.  “In the past, industry tried to take a legacy design and make it with AM. That’s a failure almost every time, because costs get compared to traditional manufacturing methods,” Whittaker says. “It’s taken time for engineers to focus on DFAM, but we’re now phasing into production. These are long-term programs with qualified metal-AM parts that are going to have a 20-year life cycle.”       “Metal additive manufacturing isn’t changing manufacturing; it’s changing the way engineers think,” Hockey adds. “With the metal additive process in mind, they can design to create better, more functional, higher producing parts. For example, they can increase the surface area for better cooling of electronic components while also light-weighting them and reducing the number of assemblies.”Hockey says that a big analogy he hears with metal additive is that it is “another tool in the toolbox.” He goes one step further, arguing that AM should be viewed as on par with conventional manufacturing processes such as casting and CNC and EDM machining.“As a contract manufacturer, we focus on serial production. We lock down parameters and our fleet of EOS machines builds repeatable parts.”“Kudos to the equipment manufacturers,” Whittaker adds. “They went for the holy grail to make an aerospace part with 99+% density of raw material. Because we have such good material properties and can qualify parts to AS9001, we can compete in the aerospace sector. That’s driven our business forward.” An IMTS EcosystemAs Incodema3D has grown as a contract manufacturer, IMTS has become a much larger landscape for the company’s team. “IMTS is a complete manufacturing show,” Hockey says. “I’ve been going since the early 2000s. The Additive Sector at IMTS is fantastic because it helps blend both the additive and the conventional processes together. Moving out of the additive manufacturing sector at IMTS, you can move into the software, robotics, or CNC technologies areas of the show and get a real idea of how those help work into your own manufacturing ecosystem.”To prove his point, Hockey notes that the company’s goal for IMTS 2022 was to find its next big CNC machine, and the Incodema3D team attended the show specifically to choose between three different vendors. “The exhibits at IMTS are great because the technology is on full display, and you can have immediate conversations” instead of different meetings in different locations on different days. “We actually got a million-dollar piece of equipment at IMTS,” he says. “It was the Mazak i700 VARIAXIS machining center with an expandable 12 station PALLETECH SYSTEM and a tool carousel that holds 120 tools. It completely changed the game for one of our largest customer programs because it can machine complex shapes in a single set-up and provides unattended operation.”The addition of the Mazak i700 in 2023 added so much capability and capacity that Incodema3D is installing a second system in 2024, and the company is not stopping there.“We need people working smarter, so at IMTS 2024 we’ll be looking at AI, automation, and robotic carts to move parts from one part of the facility to another,” Hockey says. “In everything we do, we match the right technology to elevate our production capabilities for our customer programs.”See how you can work smarter with advanced manufacturing equipment and software and make your plans to attend IMTS 2024. Register at IMTS.com/Register.
The lasers had him hooked. After seeing stereolithography in action, Jim Hockey had to get a job in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. Twenty-six years later, he remains more enthusiastic than ever, especially about the full production capabilities of his company’s 28 metal AM systems — and attending IMTS 2024 to add new technologies that continuously elevate manufacturing processes.