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Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »
Xometry: A Different Approach To On-Demand Manufacturing
March 23rd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe
At software conferences it’s always fun to catch up with old industry acquaintances, but is more interesting to strike up conversations with new companies with innovative ideas. That very thing happened a few weeks ago at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 when we got introduced to Xometry, a company committed to bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. with its software platform for building a reliable and scalable manufacturing program. It employs a unique machine-learning approach that provides its customers with optimal manufacturing capabilities at the best price based on parameters input by customers.
Founded in 2014, Xometry is hoping to transform American manufacturing through a proprietary software platform that provides on-demand manufacturing to a diverse customer base, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies. The platform provides an efficient way to source high-quality custom parts, with 24/7 access to instant pricing, expected lead time and manufacturability feedback that recommends best processes and practices. With more than 100 manufacturing partners, the manufacturing capabilities include CNC machining, 3D printing, sheet metal forming and fabrication, and urethane casting with over 200 materials. Xometry’s 4,000+ customers include General Electric, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA, and the United States Army.
CNC Machining and How Xometry Is Different
“Reaching 4,000 customers and over 100 manufacturing partners represent key milestones for Xometry. They highlight the growth we’ve achieved on both the demand and supply side of our business” said Randy Altschuler, co-founder and CEO of Xometry. “We’ve built the largest marketplace of manufacturers driven by a software platform that delivers instant pricing and manufacturability feedback. Our goal, and that of our partners, is to find the right solution for our customers to meet their design and production requirements.”
The e-commerce platform overhauls a previously time-intensive and inefficient process. It does this by connecting small- to medium-sized manufacturers, a $50 billion plus market at the heart of the American manufacturing sector, to customers in key American industries, including aerospace, automotive, defense, medical, technology and telecommunications.
Xometry acts as the network orchestrator, enabling engineers and designers to connect with highly–vetted manufacturers who can produce quality parts. Previously, the supply chain was fragmented, with manufacturers and customers mismatched on capabilities and needs. Now ordering custom parts is as easy as uploading a 3D file and placing an order. Xometry, much like ride-sharing apps, will then connect customers to manufacturers with available capacity around the country.
The following video shows how Xometry takes a different approach to manufacturing. While they use a lot of software and computational tools for their unique approach, the human element remains a big part of everything they do.
Below is a video interview we conducted at SOLIDWORKS World with Randy Altschuler, CEO and co-founder of Xometry.
Randy Altschuler, CEO, Xometry at SOLIDWORKS World 2017
Manufacturing partners can join the network at no cost and there is no bidding for jobs. Facilities receive notifications about orders that fit their specific capabilities and can choose to accept based on their capacity.
Xometry’s technology platform enables it to leverage the expertise and capacity of the almost 200,000 manufacturers across the United States who have on average less than 20 employees. Xometry’s partners are spending less time bidding for new business and more time producing parts.
According to Altschuler, “There is an alleged decline of manufacturing, the rise of foreign markets, and the end of American innovation. But the state of American manufacturing is a lot more complicated than these allegations would have you believe. Yes, there have been lost jobs, but there have also been seismic technological shifts that in some ways are making the domestic manufacturing sector more powerful than ever. With new advances in 3D printing and CNC machining, the modern machine shop has never had more tools at its disposal that allow it to adapt its offerings to any project, large or small.”
“That’s not to say there aren’t inefficiencies and other issues preventing machine shops from reaching their full potential. Getting a part or product manufactured at scale is still a terribly opaque process that ensures companies aren’t getting the best prices for their parts and that machine shops are wasting valuable time and money chasing down new customers. This is because it’s still a challenge finding the right partner to meet your specifications and required lead times at a price that is acceptable.”
So, you have an industry in which both the customer and the service provider are unhappy because they waste valuable time and money performing tasks for which they aren’t well equipped. Because of the level of customization in manufacturing, it’s been difficult to emulate the efficient marketplaces developed by companies like Uber and Amazon. That is, until now.
“Xometry allows companies to upload 3D CAD files that are then instantly priced and matched with the shops best prepared to complete the jobs. With our platform for on-demand manufacturing, we can substantially compress the time from design to manufacture, all while delivering a better experience for both sides,” he said.
The video below illustrates Xometry’s quote capability.
Xometry’s Instant Quote Capability
Xometry employs strict quality control to ensure it’s only offering up the best vendors. When a manufacturer initially signs up to join the network, Xometry screens the company by giving it only one job to complete. Instead of shipping the product directly to the customer, it’s first sent to Xometry; where their team assesses the quality of the product and whether it meets standards established by the customer and Xometry. Customers are also encouraged to rate their vendors based on their performance, and any manufacturers flagged for producing poor-quality products will receive additional scrutiny from Xometry.
Xometry’s SOLIDWORKS Add-In
Xometry’s capabilities are available as a SOLIDWORKS add-in that can be accessed directly from the SOLIDWORKS interface as shown in the video below.
Xometry’s SOLIDWORKS Add-In
Some of the features available in the SOLIDWORKS add-in include:
Funds To Grow
Last month, Xometry announced that it had secured new funding from GE Ventures and existing investors, including Highland Capital Partners, to reach a total of $23 million raised.
The infusion of capital will allow Xometry to accelerate investment in its software platform powering its market-leading manufacturing partner network. “We created a marketplace by creating price clarity where none existed,” said Altschuler. “We thought if you can buy groceries and order a car off the internet, then why not custom parts? We can now accelerate our investment to meet more of our customer’s needs.”
Is Xometry the first company to explore the possibilities of on-demand manufacturing? Well, no, not exactly. However, we are impressed with the company’s approach, growing partner network and customer base, relationship with SOLIDWORKS, and substantial financial connections that will help sustain it toward a likely bright future.