We’re very excited to share that Fabrisonic LLC, achieved ISO 9001:2015 certification, an internationally recognized quality standard. In deciding to pursue this standard, Fabrisonic aims to have a quality management system which is focused on the customer, continuous improvement, and risk-based thinking so that quality problems can be prevented. Fabrisonic is commercializing ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM), a 3D metal printing process which joins thin metal foils to produce a three-dimensional product.
The scope of the registration for ISO 9001 covers UAM products, equipment, and R & D service. The journey towards ISO certification has allowed Fabrisonic to further hone existing continuous improvement efforts. One unique aspect of Fabrisonic’s ISO scope is the system did not just address production. Unlike many companies, Fabrisonic chose to incorporate its research and development efforts in its scope.
In 2020, Fabrisonic experienced strong growth and won Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Small Business of the Year award. Our quality system, bolstered by the addition the recent ISO 9001 certification, will further enhance our ability to serve our customers, continue to improve and impact future growth.
It takes capital to move from concept to capitalization
Mark Norfolk, PE,
President & CEO Fabrisonic
This morning I sat in a kickoff meeting for a NASA funded SBIR on 3D printing metals in space. This made me ponder the impact that the SBIR/STTR program has had on Fabrisonic’s growth.
The SBIR and STTR programs fund a diverse portfolio of startups and small businesses across technology areas and markets to stimulate technological innovation, meet Federal research and development (R &D) needs, and increase commercialization to transition R &D info impact.
If you had asked my opinion of SBIRs ten years ago, I would have told you that they were corporate welfare for ‘SBIR mills.’ While I still think the system could better address companies that are making a majority of their revenue off of SBIR contracts rather than as a means of creating future revenue paths through innovations, I have come to realize the huge impact that they have on technology startups trying to cross the valley of death.
All small businesses need capital, but technology companies need CAPITAL to take an innovative idea to real world production. This is especially true of companies making hardware. Traditional funding mechanisms such as venture capital may be available and expedient. However, the owner/innovator/window washer usually must sacrifice their first born to access the cash.
What small technology companies yearn for is non-dilutive research and development (R & D) funds. You must have cash to develop high technology, but you do not want to dilute the ownership of your company. The SBIR program solves this problem. The government funds R & D under favorable terms that allow the small business to leverage the results in the commercial sector. This can be hugely beneficial if you are in a space where non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidentiality limit the ability to publicize all the really cool technical developments.
While only one project has moved forward to Phase III (direct sales to the Government), many of these programs have spawned commercial sales that leverage the R&D results from the SBIRs. Two of our largest commercial successes would not have been possible were it not for SBIR results.
Below are a few highlights from Fabrisonic’s SBIR journey
Fabrisonic developed the SonicLayer®1200
Research with NASA on a small scale metal 3D printer for the space station led to the commercialization of a new commercial system, the SonicLayer 1200. The smaller footprint of this ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) machine allowed us to reduce the price dramatically. UAM combines a unique room-temperature metal deposition process with the ease of traditional CNC milling. Our patented ultrasonic ‘print head’ is integrated into 3-axis mills to create a hybrid additive-subtractive process. Swapping from additive to subtractive is as easy as doing a tool change. By offering a more affordable UAM printer, more companies were able to invest in 3D metal printing technologies.
Plot of strain magnitude in the xy plane of a PBF build. Points A, B, and C indicate discontinuities in the build detected through the Smart Baseplate.
Partnership with companies DLA and Luna Innovations led to the development of instrumented build plates for other 3D printing technologies. UAM allows strain and temperature sensors to be permanently embedded in a build plate allowing operators of Powder Bed Fusion systems to monitor builds for flaws in real time. Process monitoring for 3D printing is a huge need in industry both for quality assurance as well as process development. The Fabrisonic SmartBuildplateTM permits users to monitor and record real world strain in the part during the entire PBF build.
One last note of advice: Limit your SBIR proposals to projects that directly align with your commercial vision. First, because you may waste precious resources on projects with a low probability of winning. Second, because you may waste precious resources on irrelevant projects if you win them. Too many businesses are enchanted by the revenue SBIR’s can bring and get distracted from their core mission of commercializing THEIR technology. There is a limited amount of time available to bring a new technology to market. If you lose focus on YOUR technology, you may get ensnared in the system and end up as a SBIR Mill….