This Startup Wants Industrial 3D Printing to be Affordable in the Developing World

The world of 3D printer makers continues to expand and change. re:3D, a local company at last week's Design & Manufacturing Texas show in Houston, is making cost-effective large format industrial printers, introducing 3D printing to emerging markets around the globe, investigating materials recycling to cut back on waste, and apparently having a lot of fun along the way.

Samantha Snabes, one of re:3D's co-founders, gave a Center Stage presentation that outlined the company's history, products, and current efforts. re:3D was started in 2013 by a group that includes robotics engineers from NASA Johnson Space Center, "a repeat entrepreneur CEO," and various domain experts in 3D printing, design, finance, and entrepreneurship. The company began with a Kickstarter campaign for its initial product, Gigabot, which closed 48 hours later with about six times the requested funds.
re:3D is based in Austin, Tex., and has manufacturing and assembly facilities in Houston.

In this video, you can watch a time-lapse of the Gigabot printer constructing a prosthetic foot and lower leg:




With an 8 cubic foot build volume - 23.2 x 24 x 24 in. - and 100-micron resolution, the fused filament Gigabot can print any thermoplastics compatible with temperatures up to 350C. A DIY parts kit costs $8,550, or you can buy a couple of assembled versions starting at $10,950. The company is also working on the next model, dubbed the Tetrabot, said Snabes.

The company has a global online marketplace, and gives away one printer for every 100 delivered, said Snabes. That was part of the founders' original dream: to introduce 3D printing to untapped emerging markets in the developing world. To date, re:3D has sold over 250 units to over 35 countries worldwide. Customers include engineers, designers, specialty manufacturers, universities, and hobbyists.

Snabes said re:3D is investigating alternate materials and has done materials research both in-house and in partnership with the University of Texas. It is also working to achieve alternative feedstocks from reclaimed plastics. The company is exploring a number of vertical markets, including prosthetics and health care, specialty industrial manufacturing, education, and consumer applications. Examples include car bumpers, robot enclosures, and architectural models.






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Ann R. Thryft is senior technology editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 27 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.

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