Southern California's Airwolf 3D Printers is searching for a new home after continued success has led the company to require increased production, warehouse and packaging space. Erick Wolf, Airwolf's President, described the situation, "to give you an idea how we are exploding, we just moved in here a couple months ago and we could be out within a couple weeks."
"Our target this year was a thousand printers sold and it looks like we are going to surpass it. We are moving almost ten a day now and looking to expand distribution in Mexico," said Wolf. "There is a market for this type of printer, which is a premium home printer that is open, easily fixable and can be tweaked."
There are two Airwolf 3D Printer models. The AW3D V5.5 has an 8 x 8 x 4 inch (203 x 203 x 102 mm) build envelope. The AW3D XL is bigger, with a 12 x 8 x 7 inch (304 x 203 x 175 mm) build envelope. Both printers are available fully assembled, or in kit form. The XL is the more recent of the two, released earlier this year. It accounts for nine out of ten sales – proof consumers are craving larger prints.
Aside from size, circuit board electronics and fixed instead of variable bed heating, there isn't a great deal of difference between the V5.5 and the XL. Both are capable of an 80 micron layer height and they are very fast, with a maximum print speed of 150 mm/sec. Either printer can print with almost any material that comes in filament form.
Airwolf makes personal class 3D printers, but boasts a high professional usage ratio. "We proudly display technical stats in our marketing copy. People understand they are getting a premium printer that is going to last. Printer number one, sitting right over there, has over 3,000 hours on it. The first printer we ever sold is still in use and we know who has it," said Wolf. "Our customer base is about 25% schools, 25% large companies like National Instruments, Hamilton Sundstrand, Edwards Lifesciences, 25% are small engineering firms, and then 25% are hobbyists."
Wolf explains further, "We'll have engineers from larger firms stop by and order five. They'll have a Dimension or other very expensive printer they can't get time on. They buy these so their engineers can explore, make parts, get things to fit prior to using the expensive machine. They are pre-prototyping. It allows them to remain focused, because they see iterations without waiting in a personnel queue." He then added, "With smaller firms, this is their prototyper."
A patent attorney and mechanical engineer, Erick Wolf's professional history is impressive. His multi-degree education puts him in a sphere with the likes of Michael Crichton. However, there is a tinkerer's twinkle in his eye, a hacker's gleam that tells anyone striving to tweak code or hardware he is definitely a member of the club. He is as comfortable talking about old cars and DIY creation as he is about business, but it is the former subjects that light up his face.
Erick's latest pet project involves the improvement of an RC car. To accomplish this, he is experimenting with various filaments for replacement drive gears – functional prototype parts made on one of the company's own printers. 3D Printer World was on hand to watch him test an Airwolf-printed polycarbonate pinion gear.