Fast Radius: scaling additive manufacturing with new headquarters in Chicago

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Fast Radius is fast changing the way manufacturing is designed and distributed. They announced the opening of their headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop earlier this week. The company is scaling up its manufacturing footprint, software development teams, and sales teams. The location features one of the most advanced industrial-grade additive manufacturing—or 3D printing—facilities in North America. It also houses the largest Carbon production facility in the Western Hemisphere and extensive HP MultiJet Fusion technology. They’re also in it with a mission to help nothing less than humankind.

“We’re the 4th modality of logistics,” CEO, Lou Rassey, tells FreightWaves by phone. “For the past century people have moved goods through ground air and sea. Now in a digital age we’re able to move goods by the internet. We can store goods virtually and produce them on demand when and where they’re needed. We have a roadmap to create a global network.”

Rassey joined Fast Radius in March of 2017. At that time Alan Amling of UPS was seeing how they could grow and scale the business. That’s how a super group of executives came together to take the company to the next growth level.

“After the funding round we kicked it into another gear. We’re now in the heart of the city and the tech center. We’re now the most advanced manufacturing in the western hemisphere,” Rassey says.

Fast Radius’ technology platform and team of engineers help clients unlock value from additive manufacturing across a product’s lifecycle. The platform supports clients in identifying potential applications, conducting engineering and economic evaluations, accelerating new product development, and ultimately manufacturing industrial-grade parts at scale with the latest additive technologies. To date, Fast Radius has raised over $17M in venture funding from top-tier investors including Drive Capital, UPS, Jump Capital, Skydeck Ventures, and Hyde Park Venture Partners.

“In addition to the infrastructure, we’ve added clients. The problem we see in the industry, is that so many people have heard of and seen glimpses, but not enough know what the capabilities are,” says Rassey.

“And in very demanding capacities companies see solutions and they’re asking a lot of questions. And their suppliers are also not familiar with them. The technologies have come on so fast in the past couple of years. That’s where Fast Radius comes in. We work with companies across the lifecycle. From opportunity application to design and implementation and custom simulation and a manufacturing facility,” says Rassey.

The strategic decision to headquarter Fast Radius’ platform and presence in Chicago is notable because Chief Executive Officer Lou Rassey and a number of Fast Radius executives first collaborated while building Chicago-based Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), including Chief Scientist Bill King, PhD, Chief Product Officer John Nanry and Enterprise Solutions Leader John Ramirez. King also was the founding Chief Technology Officer for DMDII.

In addition to the Chicago headquarters, Fast Radius has offices in Atlanta, Ga and Singapore, as well as a production hub on-site at the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, KY. Their strategic partnership with UPS unlocks entirely new supply chain solutions for both companies’ clients, enabling production-grade parts to be produced and shipped the same day.

Prior to taking the CEO role, Rassey was a Partner with McKinsey & Company where he focused on manufacturing, industrial innovation, and private equity. He brings over 20 years of experience in manufacturing to the company.

Just like Rassey, the rest of the Fast Radius team brings a wide breadth of industry and technology experience. Nanry joined Fast Radius from McKinsey where he led the Digital Manufacturing Practice. King serves as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Ramirez worked at World Business Chicago to architect the City’s manufacturing technology strategy.

So, how does it work?

“Each client’s application is unique to them. There’s learning and validation that has to happen. That’s a process we’re working through. We’ve developed a standard approach for doing this. Companies can systematically go through this. We saw a clear need with companies saying ‘This is great, but what do we do?’” says Rassey.

Rassey gives the example of furniture company, Steel Case. Their design team approached Fast Radius, and participated in the systematized approach. They wanted a  custom arm cap for a chair.

“In a month we went through 100 design iterations, filtered them down to 12 that we actually made, and they selected one, and then announced the launch. All this was done in a couple of months. They achieved both an aesthetic and a function—the speed and time to market was compelling, but also the design freedom. The geometry and aesthetic couldn’t have been done any other way,” says Rassey. “We now have a portfolio with them.”

“This is standard,” he says. “The design freedom is one thing. The second is the speed. To make it, fulfill it, and distribute it globally. It’s the combination in the supply chain that makes this so compelling.”

“On the supply chain side we had a client that needed a critical tool for repair that needed to be fabricated. The standard time would have been 45 days for this to happen, and instead it took 45 hours,” says Rassey. “We’ve created what we call a virtual warehouse. We store it in the cloud rather than in real space. It allows us to create it to specs and then create it on demand.”

It’s not going to replace every part, but Fast Radius is seeing more and more that additive is a great solution for the supply chain. It’s not just one type of material that’s used. There is a huge portfolio of variations for equipment makers and material providers. Carbon and HP are a couple of Fast Radius’s key partners. They have fundamentally different approaches, but on the polymer side they are both effective and helpful.

“On the metal side, we also work with GE and Desktop Metal,” says Rassey, whose enthusiasm is infectious. “While additive has been around for 30 years it’s basically been relegated to a prototype tool, and the inflection point has been crossed. The innovations are ready to be brought to the world at scale. The mission or motto: We exist to make new things possible to advance the human condition.”

“It’s not just about cars and satellites and cereal,” Rassey quips. “It’s about feeding and empowering the world with the things we make. That’s the heart of Fast Radius.”

Rounding out the executive team are COO Pat McCusker and VP of sales and marketing, Brian Simms. McCusker joins Fast Radius after serving as president, North America of technology firm InnerWorkings (NASDAQ: INWK) and as an associate partner at McKinsey & Company. Brian Simms was formerly the chief sales officer at Rubicon Global and has also held sales leadership roles at Amazon and Groupon.

“Pat, John, Bill, John and Brian form the perfect core team to grow Fast Radius as we build out our technology platform and global footprint to bring manufacturing innovation to the world at scale,” said Rassey.

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.