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Elyria startup company develops advanced 3-D printing system

Northeast Ohio

A local startup company working out of the Richard Desich Smart Center that has developed an advanced materials 3-D printing system recently completed ballistic testing with the Army Research Lab for possible use in ceramic body armor technology.

HotEnd Works founder Ben Becker, of Wellington, said the testing was a milestone on his company’s path to commercialization. The testing involved firing high-caliber bullets into the ceramic plates produced from the 3-D printing system to see how it compared to traditionally-manufactured parts. The idea is the plate is supposed to absorb the impact of the bullet and break up the projectile so it can’t pierce military personnel’s Kevlar.

But don’t think the ceramics used are similar to common ceramic used for pottery and coffee cups. Becker said the material is a high purity powder. The printed product is then superheated at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which solidifies it into a super-hard material. Becker said right now there are no other 3-D printing systems on the market that can produce parts for this particular testing.

“In terms of advanced materials, there really isn’t a whole lot that is offered in the area of 3-D printing systems,” said Becker, 30. “There are a lot of 3-D printing systems but none focused on advanced materials, and the few that are available globally don’t have the performance standards needed for body armor.”

The systems also can produce products for industrial equipment, textile equipment, medical implants, dental implants and alternative energy,” Becker said.

“Just about everything you can think of from a cell phone to a dental implant,” he said.

Performed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Becker said the initial trials are for body armor use only but the technology also could move into vehicle application.

HotEnd Works is a three-person operation that is finding success through the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise and Innovation Fund at Lorain County Community College. The company recently was awarded $25,000 in capital from the Innovation Fund that Becker said will be used to commercialize the 3-D printing system, which will allow buyers to purchase and print for themselves. He wants to take the system to market by March 2017 and grow to a 15-person company.

Becker, who is a former LCCC student, said he was not fully away of what GLIDE and the Innovation Fund could do for start-ups until he began working on the 3-D printing system in 2012.

“It’s not just funding but guidance and making connections with a certain industry you are trying to pursue,” he said.

After commercialization, Becker said he wants to manufacture locally.