Alumni Spotlight: Risk and Reward

Alumnus Edward Dominion's bold moves pay off for people, products, and the environment.

Ed Dominion headshot

Edward Dominion '05 is reshaping how plastic products are made, literally. His company, D6 Inc, has emerged as the largest privately held 3D printing/manufacturing house in North America through radicalized production processes, environmentally sustainable practices, and an ethical approach to business.

Growing up on a Benton Harbor, Michigan farm, Dominion’s first “business” was selling the farm’s cucumbers, peppers and apples at a roadside stand.

“When you live on a farm, you have to hustle,” Dominion laughs. “I was fascinated by business from an early age, but I liked the idea of making products because you aren’t at the mercy of mother nature.”

On a trip to the Pacific Northwest, Dominion fell in love with the landscape and open-minded spirit, and chose PSU’s School of Business to complete his education.

Top of the Food Chain

Dominion worked 60+ hours a week at Pacific Coast Fruit Company while taking classes to put himself through school. He became the company’s youngest Director ever, leading the Value Added Division at age 25. He was hired away by Chicago Metallic, where he and his team increased the company’s revenue fourfold. After the company was acquired, however, the culture shifted and Dominion left. “If you don’t have a good culture, you don’t have a good company,” Dominion says.

He launched D6 Inc. as a design consulting company with co-founders Ben McGregor and Martin Troudt. It wasn’t long before the idea to become a manufacturing business based on 3D printing and plastic thermoforming took hold.

“With 3D printing, we could turn out plastic prototypes in 24 to 48 hours instead of the industry standard 12 weeks,” he says. “The innovation jump was like going from VHS straight to iTunes.”

But banks would not finance the venture citing its concept as too new. So Dominion took a tremendous risk: he cashed out his retirement accounts and mortgaged his house to get D6 needed equipment and manufacturing space.

“I was going to expel every dollar to make this dream come true,” recalls Dominion.

Key to D6’s success is the invention of its exclusive one-of-a-kind polymers that can withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees. This highly accelerates the manufacturing process, making D6 the fastest design-to-shelf packaging manufacturer in the world.

Using recycled plastics as the base for new items was integral to Dominion’s vision. D6 recaptures 100+ million pounds of plastic waste each year to create a tremendous variety of nearly 100%-recycled- material products for companies like Walmart, J. Skinner Baking, and Country Fresh LLC. Now the 3D printing/manufacturing house in North America, D6 has a workforce of 800 employees globally and more than 16% of the world’s population has touched a D6 recycled container.

“Customers keep asking for extreme solutions and we love inventing and tinkering. Our team is always up for a challenge,” Dominion says. 

Urgent Supply

When COVID-19 taxed the country’s supply of protective face coverings last March, D6 started producing and shipping plastic face shields within 24 hours. Then the creative team developed a prototype for N95 masks. D6 constructed an FDA medical-device facility within two weeks and worked with OHSU on testing. Approval from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for D6 to operate as an N95 maker is under way, which is predicted to make D6 the fifth private company in the country approved to produce N95 masks.

Dominion finds the constant reinvention exhilarating. “I’ll always be willing to sacrifice what we are right now for what we can become,” he says. “We still have a lot to do and that’s the fun part.”

Dynamic Impacts

Eager to help prepare future entrepreneurs, Dominion generously donated $20,000 to The School of Business’s Impact Ventures program, which exposes students to entrepreneurship and enables them to make real investments in high-potential, regional start-ups that make a positive environmental or social impact.

“Half the battle of being an entrepreneur is having someone who believes in you,” Dominion asserts. “One investment – one opportunity – might help create something that changes the world.”

The past year brought rewards and recognition to D6 and Dominion. Dominion won CEO of the Year 2020 in Plastics News (the foremost publication of the global plastics industry) and he was named a 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific NW region from Ernst & Young. D6 won the Top 100 fastest company in Oregon from the Portland Business Journal and the company is on track to reach $100 million in annual revenue.

“To grow the company has been insanely taxing but I’m very proud of where we are at today,” Dominion says. “Give some farm kids lasers and 3D printers, and it’s amazing what can happen.”

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