July 11, 2018
This week, on-demand manufacturing service provider Xometry added a somewhat inconspicuous line to its home page:
Xometry and MakeTime are joining forces. We’d like to welcome MakeTime customers and suppliers to the Xometry family
The acquisition, according to Xometry's press release, “brings together the country's two top manufacturing network platforms. The combined company will operate under the Xometry brand name and have offices in Maryland and Kentucky. “
The news suggests the steady growth of web-based on-demand manufacturing, which enables small and midsize firms that need low volume production (sometimes as low as one unit) to prototype and compete.
The CAD Connection
Xometry offers manufacturing services through its network of services providers. As a result of the acquisition, “MakeTime's network of 1,000+ suppliers will join the Xometry Partner Network. The combined network provides 3D Printing, Urethane Casting, CNC Machining, Sheet Metal Fabrication, and Injection Molding services,” said Bill Cronin, senior VP of sales and marketing for Xometry.
Xometry may be familiar to some SolidWorks users, as the company has a plug-in that lets SolidWorks MCAD software users directly submit files, get quotes, and order parts from their modeling software.
Plethora, an on-demand CNC service provider, also works similarly, through a CAD plug-in compatible with SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, Solid Edge, and NX.
Such plug-ins make the submission and part ordering much more straightforward. It could be one way service providers expand their outreach to the design engineers who primarily determine the shape and function of the products early in the development cycle.
Instant Quote Platform
The instant quote platform is the interface where Xometry customers submit there files and obtain price quotes. After the acquisition, “all submissions will go through Xometry's platform moving forward,” explained Cronin.
San Francisco-based Fictiv, also an on-demand manufacturing service provider, uses a similar online interface for file submission and quote request.
The convenience of online file-based ordering has evidently attracted not just small firms but many major household names in consumer goods and manufacturing.
Xometry has worked with “BMW and 44% of the Fortune 500 motor vehicles and parts companies,” according to its web site. Fictive's customer list includes NASA and Ford, among others.
With both Xometry and Fictiv, the highly automated ordering system manages the file transmission, inspection, and job quote requests. But the humans are also in the loop. When it comes to reviewing parts to ensure they won't cause manufacturing issues, both companies employ a pool of expert engineers for the task.
The New Manufacturing Climate
Cronin said Xometry's service providers are mostly based on the U.S.
The recent U.S. government's steel and aluminum tariffs could have an effect on part manufacturers and service providers who obtain raw materials from abroad. For providers like Xometry and others, that may mean its customers seeing higher price quotes for jobs.
“One of the benefits of Xometry's platform is that we can make real time changes based on market conditions,” said Cronin.
Large manufacturers have always had easy access to manufacturing equipment and services. But on-demand service providers like Xometry, Plathora, and Fictiv fill a gap for smaller businesses that don't have their own production facility, and need lower volume or short-term production runs.