3D printer manufacturer calls Ascension home

Brandie Richardson Brichardson@weeklycitizen.com
The Copperhead

Ascension Parish is home to Louisiana's first 3D printer manufacturer. Right in the heart of Gonzales is Acadian Robotics, the first and only 3d printer manufacturer in the state.

Co-owners Craig Billings and Robb and Bree Perkins began the business just a few short years ago with the goal of having their printers in every library, museum and school in Louisiana.

The idea began in 2012 while Billings and Robb were working together at an engineering firm in Baton Rouge. Billings heard about 3D printing and wanted to purchase a printer, but Robb talked him out of buying one and building one instead.

"He said that you need to understand that it's a machine and you need to learn it and not go and spend a bunch of money on it," Billings said. "A couple years later we formed our 3d printer business, never with the intention to sell 3d printers but mostly to use them for us."

With Billings and Robb's background in engineering, and Bree's background in education, specifically the Ascension Parish school system, they were able to do what many have yet to do, target the educational system for their printers.

"It's pretty hard to come up wit your own concept and then turn it around and manufacturer that product over and over again with success and consistency," he said.

Because the trio specifically directed their attention to the educational system, they were able to have much success with their business. In addition to selling their printer, Acadian Robotics also offers educational workshop for teachers to show them how to use the printers and classroom demonstrations, teaching students about the printer and other STEM related topics.

Acadian Robotics offers two purchase options for their Copperhead 3D printer. The first option is a kit that you can put together yourself, which will run you about $1,450, or the assembled printer for $1,750. Their printer uses plastics for the printing medium, though it can support various types of plastics that have different types of properties such as hard, soft and metallic properties, he said.

"Our 3D printer is made where you can almost get any material that is out there and try it as long as you make sure the temperature range is ok. One of the main two types of things made with printers is prototypes and prosthetics. It's really making a big impact with the desktop printers, which is the classification that ours is in."

"Our machine is open source, so they [users] can modify it and do whatever they want with it. Nobody is going to steal it because the firmware and electronics, no one has access to it but us so we are protected. We always say if someone else can build a 3D printer they are already doing it."

What makes their product different from competitors is their unique design and their ability to offer tech support.

"There's no one else around doing it, we offer tech support, which in an industry that does not exist. Understand what you are getting." We wanted something teachers could use. We wanted something low maintenance, very durable. The biggest thing is that we are local, but we make them right here."

Currently they have their product in seven parishes in the state, with four locations in Ascension, Galvez Middle, East Ascension and St. Amant High School and LeBlanc Special Services.

"Our goal is to start hiring more and more people to build tech support and to develop teacher training."

For more information about Copperhead or Acadian Robotics visit acadianrobotics.com.