Ten years after graduating high school, BRCC Success Story Craig Billings, Jr., realized he wasn’t on the path to a solid career. Today he is the co-owner of Louisiana’s only manufacturer of Desktop 3D printers – Acadian Robotics.
After ignoring his family’s encouragement to attend college and study drafting or engineering, Craig went on to the United States Marine Corps., from which he received an honorable discharge two years later. The early stages of civilian life saw him bounce from job to job, but garnering real life experience in lighting controls and electronic systems.
It was 2006 when he realized that he didn't have a career, and needed to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
“Someone close to me encouraged me to look at different technical schools to learn a trade,” he said. “I enrolled in Louisiana Technical College to learn drafting and design, along with the professional classes at BRCC, in order to get my Associates Degree.
It took me three years to complete school, due to having a full time job and taking off school a semester, but I pushed through and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Drafting and Design.”
Craig learned 3D modeling skills while working in the engineering field. In 2012, he began work at a large engineering firm in Baton Rouge, where he sat near his current business partner, Robert “Robb” Perkins.
“One day while looking online for some information, I saw 3D printing advertisements. It was the first time I really ever heard of 3D printing.”
Intent on buying a 3D printer, Craig said he turned to Robb and asked him if he had ever heard of them. The two discussed the high costs before coming to the decision that Craig would buy a kit version to learn the technology, as Robb assured him that he could build one for half the price.
“Twice the original amount and sometime later, we developed our own 3D printer – The Copperhead. Our intention never was to sell 3D printers, but once we realized that we built a machine everyone could use, the idea hit us, and Acadian Robotics was formed.”
Soon after, the team was joined by Robb’s wife, Bree, and the idea to branch out to area schools was born.
Bree Perkins, who has a masters degree in education, wrote the 3D printing curriculum that Acadian Robotics sells to schools with their printer. Acadian Robotics' primary goal is to provide 3D printers, tech support, and the educational materials to every school, library, and museum in Louisiana and the rest of the country.
The team at Acadian Robotics has been quite successful in their goal.
Today Acadian Robotics is a number of parishes in Louisiana and some businesses around the country.
“Just like every small business, we face the challenge of getting a new idea to market. We believe that we can compete due to our 3D printer being unique.
Starting a business is not easy, but I am thankful to BRCC for preparing me for my future. The door is open for everyone. Sometimes the door may be bigger, smaller, or even feel more tightly shut to some – but persistence and never giving up is the key.”
While Craig noted that it wasn’t easy attending college while working, he kept his target goal in sight and kept pushing until he was through.
“Anyone can do what I have done and am doing.
Success is not defined by money, fame, or what things we may have. It is defined by giving whatever you set your mind to by giving it your best shot. Things may not work out as you planned but knowing that you gave all that you have to defy the odds is being successful.”
3D printers are used in three areas – business, education, and hobby. The main use for 3D printers is still prototyping, but people do many different things with 3D printers. Some people make molds to create jewelry. Others make custom phone cases to sell or create unique objects that cannot be made without extensive training or other machinery.
3D printers require a 3D model that is created in a computer design program such as AutoCAD, Sketch-up, or TinkerCAD. Once a 3D model is created, it is sent to another program that interfaces with the 3D printer to create the idea. With 3D printing you take your idea to a reality – you are able to touch your imagination.