UTEP President Diana Natalicio announces that the campus will be home to the North American operations of Aconity3D. (Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre/UTEP Communications)

The University of Texas at El Paso will serve as the North American base of operations for Aconity3D, a maker of 3D printing equipment, under a new agreement announced by the two organizations this summer. Aconity3D, which is based in Herzogenrath, Germany, develops laser-based 3D printing machines for fabrication of complex metal parts for use in medical implants.

Aconity3D leaders say they were drawn to UTEP because of the prominence, expertise, and facilities offered by the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation. UTEP has been a leading force in the worldwide revolution of 3D printing since 2000 when the Keck Center and UTEP’s College of Engineering made strategic investments in additive manufacturing technologies, known more popularly as 3D printing, to assist manufacturers in prototyping parts before investing in costly manufacturing tools needed for production.

UTEP’s agreement with Aconity3D will further enhance its production and service operations, attract high-end jobs for engineering students in the community, and advance the broader technology through meaningful research investigations involving UTEP, Aconity3D, government agencies, and industry. Global interest in metal 3D printing continues its rapid ascent as industry now looks to 3D printing to build next-generation products.

Initially, Aconity3D begins its operations in El Paso with a chief executive officer and plans to hire up to three employees within a year, focusing on UTEP graduates of the Keck Center with unique expertise in Aconity3D’s technology. The partnership’s long-term goal is to develop a technical center and research space in Keck Center facilities, which will operate in tandem with Aconity3D’s German headquarters to sell and service its 3D printers for North America. In Germany, Aconity3D has grown from a startup established in 2014 to a thriving company with more than 50 employees today. As its North American operations advance, the need for more engineering talent is expected to rise, and UTEP is poised to address Aconity3D’s workforce needs.

Extending its reach to the United States, Aconity3D saw the Keck Center’s success in the field of 3D printing and commitment to boost economic development as uniquely positioning UTEP for this collaboration. In 2015, UTEP’s Keck Center became the first satellite center for America Makes, the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation and innovation.

Aconity3D-produced printers are built with an open architecture system that allows users to modify its parameters to craft the best approach for fabricating a particular material desired by the customer — an approach that differs from the typical commercial approach of not allowing user control over build parameters.