Clay Guillory still has the $400 “monster” that first propelled him into the world of 3D printing.

“I wanted to get into make-n-bake 3D print stuff,” he recalls, “but I started with a little kit I found online. It was a terrible kit — kept falling apart — so I got to learn how to build one myself. Then I put an ad on Craigslist saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got a 3D printer. I can print parts for you, or I can make you your own printer if you like.’”

Guillory kept his day job as a mechanical engineer and built the first Atlas 3D printer in his garage by night. The Craigslist ad kept running, orders exploded, and soon the Louisiana native was working up to 120 hours a week. His father, his mother and his wife, Maddie, came on board, followed by a college roommate and a neighbor — and Guillory quit his day job one year after building that first printer.

Today his company, Titan Robotics, specializes in industrial 3D printers (the Atlas is its flagship) as well as purpose-built systems, additive manufacturing and production solutions.

Titan has 20-25 employees, depending on the season, and ships to companies all over the world. It produces finished 3D-printed items (everything from store mannequins and prosthetic devices to hybrid rocket assemblies and aerospace parts) and manufactures both standard and customized 3D printers for other manufacturers to use.

The aims is to “change the way the world manufactures,” Guillory said, boosting speed to market and reducing the costs for traditional manufacturers.

Titan’s position as a leader in novel pellet extrusion technologies is keeping it ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing field, and Guillory says the industry’s next wave of change will ride on close collaboration between businesses and expert 3D printing production companies.

“There are so many really cool applications that we’re doing that are just going to change the way that so many things are made, but we can’t even talk about them,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of really neat aerospace applications that are going to space — very cool stuff,” he added. “We do a lot of work with the [Department of Defense] and Tier 1 suppliers and Tier 2 suppliers to the DoD. We’re becoming very integral in their processes, and they’re changing the way they make parts and go to space.”

The frenetic pace of business leaves Guillory with little spare time, but Titan volunteers 3D printing to give back to the community — prosthetics for children and paralympians, as well as pro bono projects for local startups needing prototypes.

Guillory describes Titan’s first five years as a blur.

“It’s wild, it’s exciting, but you can’t go into it with the thought that this is ever going to be easy,” he said. “I think anyone who’s ever had a successful business totally understands that.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“Plan. Be smart about things. Don’t just go headfirst into all opportunities that come at you.”