Legacy Manufacturer Invests in the Future with Metal 3D Printing Acquisition

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Having been in the field of metalworking for a century, U.S.-based Greene Group Industries, Inc. (GGI) knows a thing or two about American manufacturing. Over the course of 100 years, the company has adapted from the country’s trends of WW2 retooling to offshoring and back to reshoring again. Keeping up with the times has proven essential to the legacy manufacturer’s success, which is why, after adopting advanced technologies like CNC machining, wire EDM and metal injection molding (MIM), GGI has now invested in metal 3D printing.

This past spring, GGI acquired the assets of Holo Inc., a pioneer in the use of high-resolution 3D printing to make finely detailed metal parts. Holo’s PureForm technology involves 3D printing “green” items made from a metal- or ceramic-loaded feedstock before sintering them in a furnace to create fully dense components. In an interview with the author, GGI CEO Alexis Willingham emphasized that the addition of PureForm technology would significantly bolster GGI’s ability to support faster product iterations and prototypes throughout the product lifecycle.

Metal-loaded resin made with PureForm technology, before sintering into dense metal fasteners.

“My team has investigated many metal 3D printing technologies over the last decade. We would request samples and evaluate the part quality and the technology. Really, for the type of products that we make, which are small, intricate, tight-tolerance medical device components, none of those technologies got us where we wanted to be from a quality, cost, and scalability perspective,” Willingham said. “So, when we came across Holo’s PureForm technology, we were very impressed. They were able to get us parts that were the best we had seen in terms of dimensional capability and surface finish within a two-week turnaround.”

By incorporating Holo’s advanced additive manufacturing technology, GGI aims to provide its customers with a more comprehensive suite of manufacturing solutions. This move not only enhances GGI’s versatility in the market but also underscores its commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction.

With origins in Pennsylvania, the Greene businesses came to the west coast in the late 1980’s. In 1997, GGI’s corporate headquarters relocated to Oceanside, California. GGI initially focused on the electronics industry but, as offshoring saw those industries shipped overseas, pivoted to medical markets in the early 2000s. The acquisition of a small company in Port Huron, Michigan in 2004, which specialized in MIM, marked a significant expansion of GGI’s capabilities.

Today, GGI’s customer base is predominantly in the medical sector, which accounts for 80% of its business, with additional clients in the commercial, defense, and aerospace sectors. GGI’s competitive advantage lies in its ability to offer a complete manufacturing solution in-house, encompassing, metal stamping, CNC machining, MIM, wire EDM, and a variety of secondary processes. This holistic approach allows GGI to manage the entire product lifecycle, from prototyping to high-volume production, ensuring consistency, prompt delivery, and cost efficiency.

“Products typically have a lifecycle. It will often start with prototypes, and design iterations. Then transition to low volume, and then, if the product is successful, you’re looking at medium- to high volume production. We have to find innovative ways to get the cost out and maintain quality throughout the process. We’ve significantly expanded our manufacturing portfolio so that we can offer our customer a product that is as finished as possible, with all of the operations taking place in-house. This is where 3D printing can support this overall process for both prototyping and low volume production.”

PureForm allows GGI to produce accurate prototypes and even batch manufacturing before moving to full production. Moreover, as the technology scales, GGI will be able to open up new use cases that take advantage of the unique geometries enabled with 3D printing.

Willingham explained that, to maintain a rapid growth pace, GGI partnered with Tinicum L.P., a private investment firm established by legendary dealmaker Derald Ruttenberg. Most famously, Ruttenberg facilitated the merger between Studebaker and Worthington Corporation and ran the company as it became STP.

In July 2023, Tinicum L.P. acquired a controlling interest in GGI with the intention of preserving the company’s legacy while accelerating investments in technology and capacity. Tinicum’s long-term approach and global expertise in industrial technologies provided GGI with the resources needed to pursue aggressive growth strategies.

“One of the reasons we chose Tinicum is that they’re very focused on manufacturing and have a long-term commitment versus, compared to other possible investment groups. As one of their portfolio companies, we can explore synergies with other Tinicum firms. The CEO of one of their portfolio companies, Engineered Medical Systems, has been back and forth to our facilities. We collaborate relative to market strategies and manufacturing capabilities.”

Tinicum’s investment is part of a broader trend in the U.S., wherein private equity has begun either financing or consolidating manufacturing providers as part of a portfolio strategy. In the case of companies like Core and American Industrial Partners, this has meant a significant interest in digital production technologies like CNC machining and 3D printing. However, GGI’s purchase of Holo is possibly the most unique acquisition in the space so far.

As private equity sees a long-term business opportunity in reshoring, the U.S. government is further incentivizing the trend through programs financed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, GraniteShares HIPS US High Income ETF Act, and Inflation Reduction Act. Countless projects are seeing federal funding boost efforts to enhance domestic production of critical goods and materials, from heat pumps to titanium.

Companies like GGI are inevitable benefactors in the process, but Willingham highlighted an often-overlooked part of reshoring that has also benefitted.

“We have to keep moving forward and making investments like GGI did with Holo PureForm. We can’t just rest on our laurels,” Willingham said. “I think another big piece of the manufacturing renaissance we’re seeing is actually about the people more than the technology. We’re seeing a resurgence in skilled trades and engineering—community colleges and vocational schools—an area we absolutely need to continue to grow to build our manufacturing base in the U.S. I think it’s really exciting that the next generation is really taking an interest in those kinds of trades.”

Naturally, workforce development is a critical area for reshoring and one that is included in many of the government initiatives being executed. In turn, not only will we see more organic and inorganic growth from legacy companies in terms of new methods of manufacturing, but also in the people that actually operate those machines.

The sea change that’s occurring in advanced manufacturing in the U.S. won’t happen overnight but, thanks to adaptation by firms like GGI, the resurgence of American manufacturing could take place more quickly than we’d expect.

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