Here we are, the second week of December in the year 2020. This is the time of year when we usually look back on the year and see what went right and what didn’t. In a normal year, it’s a fun exercise. You can conduct the review two ways, something like a global pandemic that completely disrupts supply chains, decimated key industries, disrupts how we do our jobs, eliminates almost all travel, and brings real death and injury to people we know and care about. The first is focusing on the negatives, and the second is to acknowledge the challenges and then point out the bright spots. Let’s go with that second option.
Responding to the Challenge
We got wind of what was coming early. One of PADT’s owners was visiting Taiwan when it started to spread in China. He saw how seriously the Taiwanese government was taking it and let us know. At first, it didn’t impact business, but as the global supply chain started to show weakness, our customers started to let us know that they needed to make changes. As working from home became more common, our team helped where we could to get their users set up for Ansys usage at home. We moved meetings to online, and we helped users do their own 3D Printer repair over the phone when we couldn’t enter their facilities.
New ways of using 3D Printing & Simulation
As a longtime leader in 3D Printing, a big part of our adaption was to lend our connections and machines to the effort to use additive manufacturing to get protective equipment into the hands of those who needed them. By the time the supply chain was back working, we had manufactured thousands of face masks, consulted with dozens of people seeking our advice, and helped get material into the hands of those who needed it.
We also established a couple of panels on how our customers stepped up with both 3D Printing and Simulation to battle the virus’s spread. Take a listen to the recordings to learn more about some very clever applications of these two key technologies.
Even nine months into this pandemic, we are working with several companies on products or processes related to dealing with the virus.
New ways of doing work
We got a head start on cleaning and social distancing because we saw what was going on in Taiwan, and we started prepping our infrastructure for work from home (WFH). When things started to worsen in the US, our employees stepped up and made the changes they needed.
For us, Microsoft Office365, Teams, and OneDrive have been a wonderful toolset for collaboration and communication. We even got our ancient, over 20-year-old phone system swapped over quickly to forward to cell phones and email. Thanks to our amazing IT team, we were soon meeting with customers and vendors worldwide, collaborating, and pretty much back on track.
Essential employees adjusted their schedules to reduce the potential of contamination, and we doubled-downed on social distancing. All the machines kept running, our IT infrastructure stayed solid, and we really didn’t see much of a disruption to making deadlines.
Without travel or meetings, interacting with our customers and the community was a challenge. PADT has hosted nine networking events for the Arizona technology business community since late spring and also hosted three panels for tech company executives and owners to discuss how to deal with COVID-19.
New and improved offerings and territories
We started the year by announcing our new community resource in March, 3dprinting-glossary.com. This free reference site offers definitions for over 250 terms used in Additive Manufacturing. It is slowly making its way up the list on Google search, and every month we see more and more users. As the industry grows, we will continue to keep it up to date.
Speaking of 3D Printing, our next big milestone was our expansion into Texas for Stratasys sales and support. We have been selling Ansys in the Lone Star state for several years and were pleased when, as a Stratasys Elite Channel Partner, we were asked to add Texas to our existing territory of Ansys, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
We kept the ball rolling when Art Newcomer relocated to New Mexico to support our growing customer base in that state. Art is one of our field service engineers and is an expert in maintaining and getting the most out of Stratasys AM systems.
Then just last month, we officially announced a new EOS M 290 system at PADT, greatly increasing our ability to provide Metal 3D Printing Services. The new system will be used to manufacture components for customers and conduct R&D projects.
Simulation also saw some new offerings. As Ansys, Inc. continues to add new simulation tools to their portfolio, our team works to understand what they offer and introduces them to and supports them for our customers. In 2020 we saw noticeable growth in new users and consulting around LS-Dyna, Sherlock, and SPEOS. Ansys also added some new acquisitions in 2020 that we see great interest in: AGI for mission-level aerospace simulation and Lumerical for the modeling of photonics components.
New team members
This year also saw new employees joining the team. Over the year, we have added 5 engineers and 4 salespeople. That is good growth in any year but fantastic in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
On top of these new team members spread across simulation, product development, and 3D Printing, we added two critical senior staff members to help us grow to the next level.
- Dr. Keng Hsu, a recognized expert on Metal 3D Printing who joined us as Principal R&D Engineer, Additive Manufacturing.
- Dr. Tyler Shaw also came on board in the second half of the year as our new Director of Engineering, leading our consulting team.
New challenges in 2021
Which brings us to 2021. Like most people, we will be working under #covidrules through the first quarter and maybe even a bit into April or May. With this schedule in mind, here is what we plan to do while still dealing with the pandemic and after:
- Keep our employees safe
- Add some new and exciting 3D Printing technologies.
- Grow our recent expansion in California and Texas with additional staff and activities
- Listen to our customers and deliver what they need to be successful.
- Find new and interesting ways to get information into the hands of our customers. We are all a bit “zoomed-out.”
- Upgrade our compute infrastructure and continue to explore cloud solutions for business and engineering applications.
- Host more events for the community
- Remember to unmute at least 75% of the time.
- Look back on what worked and didn’t work, and modify how we travel, meet, and communicate to take advantage of what we learned.
- Get out and see as many of our customers as possible face-to-face.
- Make further investments in people and resources in Texas and California, building on our growth in both states in 2020.
- Go to lunch with our co-workers.
- Have an Arizona Tech Business Networking event in person.
- Throw our annual Nerdtoberfest Open House at PADT’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona
- Have a 3D Printing Users Meeting in Colorado, outside, at a brewery.
This post has been purposefully upbeat. Although the business side of things has gone well, all things considered, it has been a stressful year, and many in the PADT extended family have struggled and dealt with serious health issues because of this virus.
As we close out 2020, a truly memorable year, we simply want to thank everyone who joined us on this journey for both helping us along the way and for letting us help you get through it.