Business · 30 Mar 2021

FI Innovations Leading Additive Manufacturing Industry

Aimee Wilson

Aimee Wilson

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New $2 million 3D printing and scanning technology for FI Innovations has the Southern-based company now competing on the world stage.

Owner/operator Gareth Dykes said the latest machine that was officially launched last week is the most advanced and largest of its kind in New Zealand.

“Basically we are leading the way in polymer Additive Manufacturing in New Zealand and doing it all from the bottom of the deep south.”

Additive manufacturing uses data from computer-aided-design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. 

As its name implies, additive manufacturing adds material to create an object. By contrast, when you create an object by traditional means, it is often necessary to remove material through milling, machining, carving or shaping.

“Our push into the 3D space in the last year has really made us perform in the New Zealand market.”

The company currently produces for the aerospace and medical industries, “but we’ve only just scratched the service,” and since the addition of new technology, will now be able to manufacture more than just a prototype of any one product.

“You can start from nothing and overnight these  components can print while you are not here and then you take them out in the morning…. we can produce thousands of these  parts for end use.”

The company won the Westpac Supreme Award at the Southland Business Excellence Awards in  2017, and has grown from a two-person team to upwards of 20 staff.

Gareth said admittedly the last few years have been tough, trying to break into the 3D world, and into an industry that was still relatively new in New Zealand.

Scanning in progress. Photo: James Jubb

And then when they finally got it across the line and had a big roll-out plan and launch underway in 2020, it was hijacked by Covid-19.

Gareth said they could’ve “retracted into our shell,” after the pandemic, but instead went completely the other way.

“We’re not taking over anything – it’s not the magic bullet for manufacturing – we’re just adding value alongside traditional manufacturing,” he said.

As well as being New Zealand leaders in additive manufacturing, FI Innovations also specialises in fibreglass and composites, resin casting, marine refits, classic restoration, as well as flooring and industrial coatings.

Some examples of 3D printed products. Photo: whatsoninvers.nz