Not many companies are named for one of their first failures, but that’s exactly how Jeff Christian, founder and CEO of Phoenix DeVentures, named his. Like the phoenix, Christian rose from the ashes of his situation and propelled his career forward.
Since losing everything 37 years ago, Christian has had great success, usually in R&D roles,
working for a number of firms in the medical device industry.
The perfect career?
Christian started Phoenix DeVentures just after leaving Johnson & Johnson, which had purchased the startup medical device company he was working for that had successfully penetrated the market with their products.
By all measures, Christian had the perfect arrangement with J&J: a great management position at a great company with great pay and benefits – an ideal way to finish his career – except for one small detail.
“I discovered that I am not a big-company guy,” laughs Christian. “I have always enjoyed working for startups and helping them be successful.”
Passion for startups
After 2 years at J&J, he left the safety and security of corporate life to start his new business,
Phoenix DeVentures. An engineer by trade, Christian assembled a fully tricked out machine shop in his garage that included 3D printing technology, CNC milling, lathe, EDM and injection molding.
His expertise and reputation in the medical device industry quickly garnered referral business, often from venture capitalists needing expertise to help their startups move ideas into fully functional products.
Sixteen years later, Phoenix DeVentures currently occupies 40,000 square feet with 63 employees. The majority of its business involves design and development, as well as manufacture of finished medical devices.
Technology for speed and efficiency
The company uses SOLIDWORKS for product design and an array of 3D printing technologies, including Stratasys’ PolyJet and FDM printers purchased from a local GoEngineer reseller. “We see SOLIDWORKS as the ‘standard’ in the medtech industry … GoEngineer takes great care of us – they are always ready to answer our questions, even visiting recently to conduct an advanced training session, complete with lunch.” says Christian.
To optimize project efficiency, Phoenix DeVentures is constantly looking for faster ways to build molds for proof-of-concept models that are critical to startups trying to sell their ideas to secure additional funding. The company believes it was one of the first businesses to begin experimenting with 3D printed molds, which were born of a desire to service its customers quickly and efficiently.
“I hate waiting in someone else’s queue to get parts,” says Christian. “It is routine for us to now design parts, 3D-print molds overnight, shoot parts, and do testing for strength and functionality – all right here at our facility, often in a matter of 1-3 days.”
Real world challenges
“We had a rush project about a year and a half ago where we discovered that our customer’s product needed a redesign to make the prototype function properly,” says Christian. “We only had two weeks to fix those problems and get parts to our customer who was literally presenting the product prototypes to a potential partner and investor.
”The pressure was on.
“In that two-week period, we complexly redesigned an eight-component assembly, went through two or three iterations of molded components – we grew the molds overnight, shooting parts the following day – and delivered prototypes that looked extremely close to finished products,” says Christian.
Phoenix DeVentures’ client was delighted.
Christian says the interface between SOLIDWORKS 3D design and 3D printing is practically seamless, especially when parts are properly designed with an eye toward the final manufactured product.
Eye toward the future
“We are keeping our eye on the next wave of 3D printing technology, looking for materials that have the strength and ability to hold up to high temperatures to make molds last longer,” says Christian. “When a 3D-printed mold can produce thousands of parts, the technology will have crossed an important threshold”; I think we are on the verge of that right now.”
In the meantime, Phoenix DeVentures will continue to take its clients from whiteboard to final product as quickly as possible.