A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Warner has shaken up the world of 3D printing with Gorilla Maker; now has big plans for future growth

By Kevin Eigelbach
Northern Kentucky Tribune

With his Verona-based Gorilla Maker, Glenn Warner has already disrupted the world of 3D printing.

As a partner in the Downtown Cincinnati startup Physna, Warner seems poised to help disrupt the world of quality control.

Glenn Warner stands in “The Zoo,” that section of the house trailer in Verona where Gorilla Maker makes its 3D printers (photo by Kevin Eigelbach)

More on that later. First, let’s talk about what’s new at Gorilla Maker.

The company operates from a 1,500 square-foot house trailer next to Warner’s home, on a country road in southern Boone County. It’s packed with printers, workstations, parts and plastic models of gorillas that Warner gives away at exhibitions.

Space is so limited that it’s hurting productivity, Warner said.  Employees don’t have enough room to work on more than on project at a time. So he’s eyeing a 7,000-square-foot building for lease on Industrial Drive in Florence, where he hopes to move the business in late May or early June.

If business continues to grow as it has, the company will likely need even more room.

New CEO with big plans

On May 2, after a 60-day trial, Warner hired Anthony Kelly as the company’s new CEO. Kelly, a former adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University, has worked the past 10 years for Tech Allies Consulting Group LLC, an “enterprise implementation and mobility project development firm.”

Warner felt Gorilla Maker needed a CEO, he said, because “the biggest thing in startups is that the owner thinks he can do everything and fails miserably.” Although he’s run the company since he founded it in 2013, Warner felt his skills were better suited to designing and making things.

Kelly has already put Gorilla Maker in front of big companies like IBM and large players in the oil and gas industry. He sees Gorilla Maker printers on oil rigs in offshore drilling platforms, places where it’s difficult to get parts, which Gorilla Maker printers could make onsite.

Warner expects that with Kelly’s help, Gorilla Maker will earn $500,000 in revenue this year, which would be 2.5 times as much as the $200,000 it earned in 2017.

“Tony makes us think in larger deals,” Warner said.

That includes selling printers to enterprises in deserts, where parts are also hard to come by. Warner said he himself knows how to design and build printers that can withstand harsh environments, but he doesn’t know how to sell them.

Over the next 26 months, Kelly wants to take Gorilla Maker from its current 20 employees to 800, Warner said. In the shorter term, over the next 18 months, he hopes to hire 80 new people to become trainers for 3D printing.

Most of the present employees are high school students, with whom Warner seems to have a knack for helping to find their work ethic. He gives them purpose, he said, which is something they don’t always feel in school.

In creating Gorilla Maker’s four models of 3D printer, Warner has become quite an expert on the subject of 3D printing. Kelly wants to make Warner a sort of expert for hire, something Warner said he wouldn’t have thought of himself.

“I thought I had big dreams, but Tony corrected me,” Warner said.

Physna growing rapidly in Cincinnati

Speaking of big dreams, Warner and his partner in Physna, Paul Powers, have some for that company too.

Physna makes software that can compare and analyze 3D models. Management’s marketing it to schools, Powers said, because it can prevent students from printing things like parts for weapons or other objects they shouldn’t be making. But he said it can also save manufacturers millions by “seeing” parts on a level much deeper than the eye can see.

He said that level of inspection could also prevent disasters such as the recent engine failure on a Southwest Airlines plan that killed a passenger.

When Powers explained the idea for Physna to Warner about 18 months ago, Warner told him he thought the idea was worth $1 billion.

Physna now has about a dozen employees in 6,000 square feet at 30 W. Third St. in Cincinnati. It’s close to launching a software that automates quality control during 3D printing, one of several existing or potential tie-ins with Gorilla Maker technology.

Some of the largest companies in the world are looking at Physna software to replace their current quality control systems, Powers said.

“It’s going to change manufacturing,” Warner said. “At the end of the day, when you’ve build a part, you’ve got to know if it’s a go or no go. We can tell you what’s wrong with that part and identify that flaw … and we can tell you in about 10 seconds.”

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