Did you know that New York City is the capital of desktop 3D printing? Brooklyn-based Makerbot is the most powerful player, but there’s plenty of room for startups. Among publicly-traded 3D printing companies, the firms that are the most focused are also the most successful.
“Those that broadened out,” says Alan Meckler, a 3D printing venture capitalist, “are not doing well.” If a laser-like focus is what 3D printing companies need to succeed, should the entire industry adopt a New York state of mind in 2016?
In Beyond Makerbot, a year-end review of 3D printing in the Big Apple, reporter Michael del Castillo of the New York Business Journal examines several local success stories. Although 2015 held hard times for Makerbot, two round of layoffs weren’t all that happened last year. The company’s renewed focus on core products was encouraging, and work on a secret project called Thingiverse is exciting. If Makerbot can join the Internet of Things with a social network, how will 3D printing connect virtual and physical worlds?
Evidence of Makerbot’s renewed success is already evident in its offspring. Last fall, Voodoo Manufacturing was born. Launched by a team of former Makerbot employees, this Brooklyn-based startup manages a fleet of Makerbot 3D printers with just a single employee and some proprietary software. “It’s almost like you have this virtual printing factory”, explains CEO Max Freifeld. “You can just pick up and rent a printer whenever you want and you don’t have to worry about the maintenance.”
Looking Toward the Future
The 3D printing industry needs more than just machine builders and workflow developers, however. Beyond the Big Apple but within the Empire State lies Graphene 3D Lab of Calverton, New York. Unlike other makers of 3D printing materials, the Long Island company doesn’t just provide powders, pellets, filaments, resins, and granules. Last fall, Graphene introduced a foam made of a material that can conduct electricity. Graphene has also filed a patent for a machine, Romulus the Third, that can print with multiple materials.
What will 2016 hold for 3D printing companies such as Makerbot, Voodoo Manufacturing, and Graphene 3D Lab? Some of the hype about 3D printing has evaporated, but businesses of all sizes are now experimenting with additive manufacturing. Will Brooklyn-based companies provide a model that other New York State firms can follow?
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