Samantha Snabes of re:3D Talks about Her Startup
Where are you from originally?
What university did you go to?
The University of Michigan
What brought you to Austin?
In 2006 I brought my former start-up to Austin due to the favorable economic climate. After selling the company in 2009, I went to work supporting NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. In 2012 I returned to Austin as a Social Entrepreneur in Residence for NASA HQ. After reconnecting with the start-up and social enterprises community in Austin, re:3D chose to Headquarter in Austin TX where three of our co-founders reside.
What is the idea behind your startup?
re:3D was founded in January 2013 by a team of six dynamic entrepreneurs with diverse professional backgrounds, yet united by one singular vision: to transform the tangible world through 3D printing. Our founders have more than 50 years of combined experience in engineering, manufacturing, tool and die, research and entrepreneurship. For detailed descriptions of our team member backgrounds, please visit our website at www.re3d.org.
Based in Austin, TX, re:3D is committed to trailblazing new frontiers in 3D printing. Our flagship technology, the Gigabot, is a high-performance, robust, affordable 3D printer with a build volume of 8 cubic feet -- 30 times the build volume of a standard consumer device. re:3D is also at the forefront of material science, developing novel printer feedstocks including recycled plastics and enriched composites. With a global online marketplace and a localized presence in Latin America, re:3D is reaching untapped emerging markets worldwide.
What need does it fulfill?
While 3D printing has the potential to democratize manufacturing, the technology continues to reside among highly trained engineers and hobbyists in the U.S. and Western Europe. re:3D seeks to expand the frontiers of 3D printing through global outreach, hardware innovation, and social mission:
Mass customization meets the human scale.
The vast majority of home 3D printers have a build volume of less than 1 cubic ft, which limits the ability to create at human scale. Gigabot enables printing in the 8 cubic ft range. Imagine household, industrial, and educational applications. For example, communities are already envisioning 3D-printed furniture, tools, decorative artwork, storage containers, and other functional objects. Architectural firms can now create in-house rapid prototyping at a larger, high-quality scale. Conversely, small production companies can now affordably complete in-house set design. Imagine a micro-entrepreneur in Latin America creating composting toilets and rainwater catchment systems for local sanitation and water conservation projects. Think big, print big.
Alternative feedstocks: challenging existing paradigms for material sourcing.
The materials we use to create products defines the lifecycle of our economies. 3D printing opens new avenues for sourcing and producing objects that will reposition fabrication in a post industrial world. Recognizing this, re:3D is developing an extruder technology to transform recycled materials into plastic filament. "3D re:purposing" will not only drive down input costs, but create new markets for recycled materials, thereby reducing landfill waste and resource depletion.
Social innovation with global reach.
Modern society is facing complex, dynamic challenges that require solutions capable of spanning local needs with global demands. re:3D's vision is to harness the rapid growth potential of 3D printing technology to create employment opportunities and new end users in Latin America and other emerging markets. By leveraging relationships with local educational institutions, governments, non-profit organizations, and corporations, re:3D builds communities around customized 3D printing solutions.
What exactly does your product do?
3D printing is a massive market opportunity. It's democratizing manufacturing and allowing rapid customization of tangible objects. Thanks to the current desktop 3D printer market, we’re getting better and better at creating iphone cases, puzzle toys and bobble heads and handheld objects... but what about tools, furniture, and architectural models --- functional objects at the human scale that truly meet human needs??
At re:3D, we're tackling the two biggest obstacles constraining 3D printing: scale and cost.
Our flagship technology, the Gigabot, is an affordable, industrial 3D printer with a build volume of 8 cubic feet -- 30x the scale of other printers on the market. Imagine, with this technology you can now run your own rapid prototyping system, at a sliver of the cost of traditional injection molding systems. Now, we are working hard to develop a device convert plastic trash into filament, reducing the cost barrier to 3D printing and opening high growth markets worldwide.
Who is it for?
re:3D’s innovative solutions address global needs across multiple industries, including education; waste reduction & repurposing; water management; sanitation; agriculture; and impact investing, just to name a few. By physically meeting contributors in related open source outlets, we are facilitating community between makers and end users. The beginnings have been very quick to come - we started the company less than six months ago - but we are committed to pushing the frontiers of 3D printing throughout the life of our company. Success begets success, and it's important for us to be distributed in multiple industries because of the close interaction between all social entrepreneurial endeavors.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up a business?
Any engineering endeavor is a balancing act between the opposing forces of physics: form vs. function; precision vs. speed; feature vs. necessity. Matthew Fiedler, Chief Hacker of re:3D, optimized Gigabot for performance and size at a highly affordable price point for serious hobbyists and small businesses alike.
A second obstacle has been maintaining effective lines of communication within a distributed team. The re:3D founders are currently spread across four distinct geographies: Austin, TX; Santiago, Chile; Houston, TX; and Syracuse, NY. We’ve overcome the distance by rigorously maintaining biweekly video chat tag-ups, and prioritizing face-to-face meetings whenever possible. We also leverage multiple communication channels including Google Hangouts, Skype chat, and e-mail.
What is the next step for you and your startup?
Our current efforts are focused on delivering high quality products to our Kicksterter backers and showcasing product improvements at the Detroit MakerFaire and New York Makerfaire. In the upcoming months, we’ll also be expanding research in recycled plastics and growing the company and brand through stepwise incremental development.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to break the rules. In a world where new crowdfunding, communication tools, accelerators, and open source resources are launched daily, anything is possible and norms for business are evolving. As a result not only manufacturing, but entrepreneurship is being democratized and individuals and teams are empowered to define the standards for how start-up form and succeed.
What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
SXSW. re:3D launched the Gigabot Kickstarter campaign at the SXSW Interactive conference in the Company’s backyard of Austin, TX. Showcased at Startup Chile’s trade show booth, re:3D ran a live demo of Gigabot printing in action for hundreds of SXSW participants. The demo generated significant buzz and media attention, which catapulted our Kickstarter campaign. In just 24 hours, Gigabot had met its Kickstarter goal, only to double it the following day. Gigabot’s Kickstarter campaign ran through May 9, 2013 raising over $250,000.