New Bedford’s ProtoXYZ Accelerates and Automates 3D Printing and CNC Machining

NEW BEDFORD — Industry 4.0 technologies are revolutionizing the way manufacturing companies like New ProtoXYZ based in Bedford serve their customers with the greatest possible precision.

Brothers Jordan and Nathaniel Fernandes take new technology and apply it to older manufacturing processes to offer online 3D printing and CNC machining (a computerized manufacturing process) by applying their software model. They “help engineers bring their ideas to life” by creating prototypes, offering what they say is a faster and more automated self-service process.

As co-founder and COO, older brother Jordan focuses on operations and sales, while Nathaniel is the technical director working on code and machining. They turned to their father, Mike Fernandes, for guidance, knowing he had experience building his own businesses.

Jordan Fernandes installs one of the new 3D printers in ProtoXYZ's new offices at the DeMello International Center on Union Street in New Bedford.

A true family business

When approached in 2021, Mike liked what he heard and agreed to invest in their new venture. When they asked if he wanted to help them run the business, he agreed and they found a general manager.

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Jordan said he worked for another company and had spoken to co-workers about the profit potential of a company offering 3D printing services. They thought it would, and he overcame his initial hesitation. His first thought was that it would make a good side business.

“My dad said, ‘A side business? Why not just make a business out of it and grow from there? “So he was the one who really influenced me to start building and growing,” Jordan said.

CEO Mike Fernandes and his son Nathaniel Fernandes explain how customers can log on to their website for an instant quote, at ProtoXYZ's new offices at the DeMello International Center on Union Street in New Bedford.

In line with their plans, their father approached friends to invest. When he approached James DeMello, he offered them a small space at the DeMello International Center at 128 Union St.

As the company grew, they brought on board software engineer Patricia Pires-Dias from UMass Dartmouth in June 2021 and have since moved to a larger space in the LL3 suite to accommodate all their equipment.

Jordan, Class of 2020, Nathaniel, Class of 2022, Mike, Class of 1990, and their mother Michele, Compliance Officer, Class of 1991, all graduated from Northeastern University with degrees in mechanical engineering. DeMello, also a Northeast graduate, studied chemical engineering.

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Expansion to include CNC machining

It was at the request of their customers that they expanded to include CNC machining, described as a way of taking a piece of metal and removing material from it compared to 3D printing which adds the material in the making. Other processes should be added.

A 3D printed little dragon at ProtoXYZ's new offices at the DeMello International Center on Union Street in New Bedford.

Nathaniel said what really sets them apart from other manufacturers is their website. During one of his internships, he sent them a part, but it was really annoying not to be able to get quotes from manufacturers in a reasonable time. It would take two or three days to respond.

“I thought we could modernize this whole process and make it so that our software can analyze a coin and then come up with a price automatically,” he said.

Customers can access the website www.protoxyz.com to download a part, choose 3D printing or CNC machining, and possibly other offers, then click on the price of the part and get an answer in seconds. It is a self-directed but very detailed process. All information is stored in the cloud.

One of the difficulties in pricing the parts was trying to figure out how long it would take to machine it, Nathaniel said. So they are working to improve this process by collecting data each time they machine a part and importing it into their machine learning model. The price becomes more accurate over time.

“The website is being developed so the engineer doesn’t even have to talk to us, he just downloads it, but that being said, there are still a lot of companies that Jordan has communicated with that always want to deal with you one-on-one so we invite them to discuss designs,” said Mike.

Nathaniel Fernandes and his brother Jordan Fernandes work on the CNC machine at ProtoXYZ's new offices at the DeMello International Center on Union Street in New Bedford.

Growth plans

In the very near future, as they grow and succeed in raising $2 million in capital, the offices will become the main technical center for software development and machine training, Mike said.

“Eventually we will have another building, hopefully very close to the city center, where we will house more machinery and larger equipment that we cannot fit here,” he said, adding that they were looking for 10,000 people for 20,000 square feet of space.

Mike Fernandes said he wants to pave the way for other high-tech companies interested in setting up shop in the area and also focus on creating jobs for the local community.

Software engineer Patricia Pires-Dias works on back-end coding at ProtoXYZ's new offices at the DeMello International Center on Union Street in New Bedford.

He said New Bedford is located in a historically underutilized business area, or HUBZone, a program established by the Small Business Administration to help small businesses in urban and rural communities. One of the advantages is that companies can be awarded federal contracts once certified.

Nathaniel’s workdays often consist of programming a machine to tell him where to go to cut material and designing jigs to hold parts, both jobs that require an engineering background. Software engineers are also needed to help implement the required artificial intelligence.

“I think what we’re doing is hopefully creating one of the many high-tech companies that will be here in downtown New Bedford and spread throughout the area,” Mike said. “I think it’s going to create a lot of jobs for people who want to get into technical positions.”

Standard-Times editor Kathryn Gallerani can be reached at kgallerani@wickedlocal.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kgallreporter. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.