Jack King, CEO of dust-free tile removal system DustRam, recently decided to experiment with 3D printing. His DustRam device—which features patented chipping hammer attachments along with grinding shrouds, a vacuum system, proprietary grinding wheels and debris removal handling equipment—was performing well in the field, but the all-metal construction made the unit heavy, expensive and time-consuming to create.

He had already been working with 3D printing consultant Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies (PADT), to print out some vacuum parts. “Then,” he said, “we hit upon the idea of having PADT build a nylon prototype of the DustRam, just to see how durable it would be.”

King admitted that he wasn’t expecting much from the experiment. “When we printed the first nylon DustRam, we thought it was going to break in five minutes. However, nylon is so abrasion-resistant and so flexible, we found that the unit can be used to remove not just bonded tile, but travertine and even wall surfaces.”

King said he had been looking at expanding into vertical surface removal with the DustRam previously, but it had not been possible. “A chipping hammer is relatively light, but when you add a 12 to 13 lb. metal DustRam on the end of it, you’re not going to be able to hold it up for very long. With the new nylon DustRam, we have no problems at all.”

Both the metal and nylon versions of the DustRam are still available, but King stated the nylon DustRam offers several additional benefits. “Everybody’s response has been the same. They can’t believe how light it is and how effectively it works. The nylon DustRams are much less time-consuming to create, and they are less than one third of the cost [of the metal version].”

The Benefits of 3D Printing

Eric Miller, PADT’s co-owner and principal, believes King is one of the first entrepreneurs in the flooring industry to fully embrace 3D printing technology. “What’s great about this example is here you have a guy who really knows the industry. He really understands dust-free tile removal. He was frustrated with the capabilities that were available to him. His situation was a perfect fit for 3D printing.”

Miller noted that other members of the industry can also use 3D printing to help cut down on production costs and bring innovation to the market more quickly. “Manufacturing and production [the traditional way] can be hard. There’s a lot of time and money that goes into tooling and production and waiting to get a part back. 3D printing takes those headaches away.”

King, who was so impressed with the 3D-printed DustRam prototype that he purchased 3D printers for his company, said working with the technology is intuitive. “It involves touchscreens and the machine does a lot of the work for you. You simply make choices of what you want the machine to do, and it will alert you when you need to change a canister of modeling material. After about a week of using it, I became much more relaxed and really started to understand all of the machine’s capabilities.”

King believes 3D printing has a home in the flooring industry. “Anyone with industry experience can now come up with innovative pieces of equipment that otherwise would not really be possible using traditional manufacturing techniques.”

For those interested in researching the capabilities of 3D printing, Miller offers these suggestions: “Contact us, or a company like us, that’s involved both in product development and 3D printing. If you go to a company that just sells 3D printers, you’re going to come away with a lot of questions. But if you go to a company that is involved in the engineering as well, they can walk you through and help you make the proper decisions.”

With 3D printing technology, King conquered a major hurdle in product development and manufacturing. Now he can set his sights on other challenges. “More consumers seem to be aware of dust-free tile removal than flooring stores. But that’s going to change. This market is being driven organically by consumers, because they don’t want a mess made in their homes anymore. They want somebody invested in quality equipment, training and an attention to detail. That’s not something you’re going to achieve with a push broom, a shovel and a sledgehammer.”

For more information on the DustRam system, visit dustram.com. For more information on PADT, visit padtinc.com.