Linear AMS Returns, Retooled and Refocused
After splitting with Moog, the company is getting back to mold tooling and homing in on low-volume plastic part production.
Linear AMS experienced a shift in focus over the two years it was part of Moog. As the company expanded into different areas of additive manufacturing (AM), its culture changed from one of customer-driven R&D to IP-driven 3D-printed part production, mostly for aerospace.
Though this work did advance Linear's knowledge and experience in designing for AM, a desire to form solid partnerships with customers to provide solutions motivated Lou Young (previously director of tooling and marketing) to join forces with Linear Mold founder John Tenbusch and return the company to its roots, as president and CEO, respectively. The two repurchased the company in a deal that closed earlier this year.
"Manufacturing is in our blood. We are jumping back into injection mold tooling and low-volume plastic parts manufacturing as well as metal AM for conformal cooling applications for tooling," Tenbusch says.
The business plan is simple: They are only using one material and one or two machine manufacturers. "I like to say, we will grow any kind of metal you want as long as it's MS1," Tenbusch jokes.
Linear is homing in on low-volume production for plastic injection molding. To Young and Tenbusch, that means 10,000 to 50,000 parts a year. Tooling and any kind of 3D printing in the automotive world puts Linear AMS back in its home market, and there is plenty of tooling opportunities in autonomous, electric and traditional vehicle body building, according to Young.
"The automotive OEMs are just now starting to come on board with the use of conformal cooling in their applications and we project that it will be at a scale much higher than what we've seen in the past. This market is ripe for additive," says Young.
Although Linear AMS has a reputation for automotive work, they are diversifying into other end markets as well, such as industrial products and consumer goods. Many of the 85 employees continue to work in the traditional tooling and manufacturing side of the business, as they see an opportunity for growth in low-volume molding opportunities.
Today Linear AMS is retooling its facility to be fully up and running with AM machines by spring 2018. They are currently interviewing a variety of AM machine manufacturers to learn about their latest technology and service capabilities. A number of employees continue to work with customers doing conformal insert designs and CAE analysis work using Moldex3D while temporarily contracting service bureaus skilled in running MS1 tool steel to produce those inserts.