When Craig Billings first became interested in 3-D printing, he was surprised at the expense and the low quality of the 3-D printer kit choices available.
“We took a look at it and said, ‘We think we can do better,’ ” he said of himself and business co-owners Robb Perkins and Edward Prejean, and started the process of collecting parts to create their own, higher-quality 3-D printer for less than the $10,000 asking price.
It didn’t go smoothly, at least at first.
They ended up spending about double that to get their initial printer going, but they figured it out quickly enough to start Louisiana’s first 3-D printer manufacturing business, Acadian Robotics, now headquartered in Gonzales.
In the two years since they opened, Billings said, they’ve seen the uses for this technology grow, along with interest in the machines and the software used to design plans for 3-D-printed objects.
Everyone from artists to entrepreneurs use the technology, Billings said, and he believes the 3-D printer is quickly becoming indispensable.
J.D. Lovelace, branch manager of the Livingston Parish Library’s Main Branch in the town of Livingston, said he’s seen several small-business owners come into their library to use the 3-D printer to design and test the fit and effectiveness of parts of all kinds before they go to the trouble and expense of having them manufactured.
That’s just one of many uses he’s noticed since the library got its printer a couple of years ago.
There was so much interest, in fact, that he invited Billings to the library to teach community members beginner classes on 3-D software programs like SketchUp and AutoCAD.
The classes have been popular enough that Billings and his business partner are developing classes for the general public through their business in August — from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Aug. 13, 20 and 27. The cost for the classes is $140, he said.
Bree Perkins is the company’s executive director of education.
As of now, Acadian offers 3-D printers and printing supplies, and technical support, and it has developed a 3-D printing kit designed especially for schools, according to its website, acadianrobotics.com.