Mission critical: Rapid Application Group’s campaign for additive excellence

With the recent opening of a new 15,000 square-foot additive manufacturing facility, the founders of Rapid Application Group (RAG), CEO Terry Hill and COO Jason Dickman, took a few minutes out to discuss rapid growth, a social mission and being the only Service Disabled Veteran Owned AM contract manufacturer in the United States.

Rapid Application Group has grown very quickly since being founded in 2017. How did that happen?

Terry: From humble beginnings three years ago, RAG has grown more than 3,000%. We are leading the State with the most advanced additive manufacturing facility in Oklahoma and our growth is a testament to our business model, especially for aerospace and defense customers. As additive manufacturing becomes a viable supply chain option for all industries, we are proud to help deliver ‘mission-critical additive manufacturing solutions’ for customers.

Jason: 3D printing delivers the opportunity to fabricate and produce so many different parts on-demand, from prototypes, production parts, jigs and fixtures and tooling, and RAG is the tip of the spear for customers across the United States. We have focused on stringent quality standards, comprehensive traceability systems, and a commitment to customer service. We are the go-to leader in the aerospace and defense additive manufacturing market and our new facility is a mark of our commitment and growth trajectory.

Can you share some of your history in additive manufacturing?

Terry: After several tours in the U.S. Army, and 750 combat missions as a UH60 Black Hawk Medical Evacuation pilot, I was introduced to additive manufacturing as a research pilot and engineer at the Army’s Aeromedical Research Laboratory. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of additive and allowed me to invent the ‘Hill Helmet Mount’. Once I left the army, RAG was founded in 2017. In combat there were multiple times that we could have used AM to support non flight-critical parts to increase the combat power of the United States and we are bringing that experience and knowledge to aerospace and defense contractors now.

Jason: I started off more than 30 years ago as an aerospace engineer at GE, and later moved to Hasbro Toys and other companies where I implemented SLS, SLA and FDM systems for part production. I co-founded American Precision Prototyping, an additive service bureau, in 2002. I have been in additive manufacturing since its inception and I cannot imagine product development without it. We also leverage 3D scanning and metrology to fully assure quality parts. I am also an AMUG Dino award recipient.

What do customers come to you for?

Jason: Our customers come for our application-based approach that can be used to produce parts, both via additive and traditional manufacturing methods. We are fanatics about customer service and quality, and those customers are secure in the knowledge that we will give them the best advice and service, every time. We also have many certifications and compliance with standards including ISO 9001, AS9100D, ITAR and HUBZone.

What examples of work do you do for customers?

Jason: One challenge that both jet engine OEMs and Aircraft MROs have in common is the assembly of fan and compressor cases. The assemblies require all the parts to be installed and aligned in a specific order and are then contained by final case halves. A typical jet engine will have multiple stages of production, so fixtures with varying outer diameters, slot angles and sizes are required for each stage. It is extremely expensive and time-consuming to CNC machine these one-off components.

Terry: So, it makes perfect sense to use AM to print these tools. Leveraging the massive build envelope of the Fortus 900MC, RAG prints multiple fixtures at the same time. Varying part geometry and size of parts are irrelevant using this process. Accuracy on these parts was critical so we developed processes to measure and control shrinkage, and maintain the required surface finish. The parts print in about a quarter of the time and we were able to cut the production costs in half.

Jonsey the dog is a popular character at AMUG and RAPID + TCT events. What’s the story there?

Terry: Jonsey is my trained and certified PTSD service dog and VP of Customer Service. He gives me the ability to focus on growing one of the fastest companies in Oklahoma and the strength to continue this incredible journey. He is with me 24/7 and so when I am at a trade show, Jonsey is there too, and with his executive position he even gets his own name badge.

What’s next for the RAG team?

Jason: I have honestly waited for my entire career to be part of such an amazing team with this world-class facility. When we moved to the new facility we added four large production 3D printers and in 2020 we will be adding additional polymer and metal systems. We have advanced metrology systems to ensure quality, and we will be adding additional reverse engineering systems. We have an aggressive growth plan and are excited to see what 2020 brings.

Be part of #RAGFRIDAY with us

RAG Friday foundation is a registered non-profit organisation that focuses on giving back to military veterans through improving quality of life, giving them employable skills, and raising awareness about veteran suicide.

With the words Remember All Gone, every team member wears RAG Friday t-shirts every Friday, to ensure that we Remember those deployed, All those who come back but are still fighting a battle within themselves like Terry, and all those who are Gone, but never forgotten.

Support RAG Friday through a donation and you will be supporting critical manufacturing skills training for veterans and delivery of services for production of prosthetics for wounded veterans. Rapid Application Group has donated over 1% of gross revenue to the RAG Friday Foundation. Donations can be made at ragfriday.org

Story by Annalena Dickman and Rachael Dalton-Taggart

Courtesy of TCTmagazine

 

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