Tag Archives: MIT
Form 1 3D Printer Raised $3 Million on Kickstarter, Now Gets $19 Million from VCs
Formlabs is a storybook startup. Founded by 3 engineers from the world-famous MIT Media Lab, the company launched an historic Kickstarter campaign in which they raised nearly $3 million from over 2,000 backers for their Form1 desktop 3D printer.
Now the company has achieved a new milestone. Formlabs raised $19 million in venture funding from DFJ Growth, Pitango Venture Capital, and Innovation Endeavors. Some angel investors also participated in the round. Formlabs will use the capital to expand its world-class product, design, and research teams, while growing its marketing and customer support capabilities internationally.
“There is still a wide open space in front of us to continue innovating and bringing incredible new products to the market; with these new resources, we’ll be able to continue to push the envelope, making extraordinary new tools available around the world,” co-founder Maxim Lobovsky said, “The group we’re putting together to get here is the most creative and passionate team working in 3D printing and I’m personally excited about using this new investment to grow our team and take digital fabrication to the next level.”
Formlabs has seen tremendous growth in the last year and is now expanding into an 11,000 square foot facility in Somerville, Massachusetts. “We’re going to use every inch. There’s a lot of work to do, so we are thrilled to have DFJ Growth and Pitango onboard,” said cofounder Natan Linder, “We’re looking forward to expanding internationally, and bringing a professional 3D printing experience to people around the world.”
“We are very excited to partner with Formlabs on their next phase of growth,” said DFJ Growth Managing Director Barry Schuler, who will join the board. “Max and the entire Formlabs team have done an amazing job with the Form 1 printer, a big advancement in the new industrial revolution.”
To date, the company has shipped over 900 desktop 3D printers.
The company is also making software a priority with PreForm 1.0, a milestone in the development of its easy-to-use, powerful 3D printing software. Formlabs’ PreForm software allows everyone, from novice to professional, to print 3D models with just a few mouse clicks.
How Formlabs Differentiates on Quality and Price
In the increasingly competitive 3D printing industry, Formlabs stands apart for two reasons. First, it is desktop 3D printer that can form layers as small as 25 microns (.001 inches), creating incredible detail. For example, look at this photo of a neptune statue standing next to a U.S. 25-cent coin.
Formlabs achieves this through a technology called stereolithography. Many desktop 3D printers use a process called FDM, or fused deposition modeling, that extrudes plastic layer by layer to form an object. 3D printers from MakerBot, Ultimaker, and Printrbot all use this approach.
The Form 1 3D Printer instead uses a resin based printing process ideal for detailed and complex parts. A high precision positioning system directs a laser onto a tray of liquid resin and traces out each crosssectional layer, causing the resin to harden. This process repeats until a full part is constructed. Printing is simple, reliable, and quiet.
Stereolithography was originally invented by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems, and the company still holds a patent on stereolithography. In fact, shortly after its Kickstarter success, Formlabs was named in a patent infringement lawsuit by 3D Systems.
However, many patents have expired already and the patent named in that lawsuit is set to expire early next year, which is likely why DFJ felt comfortable putting so much money into Formlabs.
Formlabs also differentiates on price. Their Form 1 3D printer costs $3,299.
Compare that to industrial stereolithography 3D printers which cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. And the Form 1 is not much more expensive than the leading FDM-based desktop 3D printer, the MakerBot Replicator 2, which sells for $2,199 and does not have nearly the precision of the Form 1.
Interview with Formlabs
We spoke with Sam Jacoby of Formlabs about the company’s plans for expansion on the announcement of this round of funding.
On 3D Printing: Congrats on your funding. Formlabs differentiates from most of the 3D printer makers by focusing on stereolithography, but that has also gotten you into some hot water due to patents in the space. Will stereolithography continue to be the focus for your company, or are you expanding to other 3D printing techniques?
Jacoby: Right now, we’re focusing on making the Form 1 the best possible 3D printer out there. We really proud of how far we’ve come, but we there’s still so much to do. We think there is a lot to be done with stereolithography, but we’re looking at whatever technologies will allow us to create the most powerful, innovative fabrication tools of the future.
On 3D Printing: Your company has a great story. How did starting at MIT set you up for success?
Jacoby: MIT is a great place. There, we had access to the most incredible set of fabrication machines–but those were expensive, high-end tools. We wanted to create something that could be shared more widely.
On 3D Printing: It looks like you are focusing more on software. What are the pain points you are looking to solve?
Jacoby: Software is a big part of what we do. When making hardware, it’s easy to overlook how important software is, so we’ve really made PreForm a focus. We’ve done a lot of extraordinary work in making a tool that is reliable and easy-to-use as possible. For example, many CAD programs have a tough time creating models that are ready to 3D print. To solve that problem, we’ve incorporated algorithms that automatically repair your 3D-models, so you can spend your time designing and getting on with your work.
Thanks to Sam Jacoby for the interview and congratulations to Formlabs on its $19 million funding round.
3D Printing News
A roundup of the top 3D printing news from August 5 to August 11:
Monday, August 5
Tuesday, August 6
Thursday, August 8
Friday, August 9
Sunday, August 11
“Pirating keys is becoming like pirating movies.” — MIT Student David Lawrence
Two students at MIT have demonstrated how 3D printing can be used to duplicate some of the most secure keys in the industry. David Lawrence, 20, and Eric Van Albert, 21, demonstrated their technique in a presentation at security industry conference Defcon 21 in Las Vegas this past weekend.
The team used a flatbed scanner in combination with a 3D model template to develop an exact digital copy of a high security Schlage Primus key. This file, they explained, can be 3D printed in a material durable enough to open locks, for example, titanium from i.Materialise.
“If we show that mechanical locks are vulnerable to key duplication just by having a handful of numbers you can download off the internet, hopefully they ‘ll be phased out more quickly… Either that or make 3D printers illegal,” said Van Albert in an interview with Forbes.
Lawrence added, “In the past if you wanted a Primus key, you had to go through Schlage. Now you just need the information contained in the key, and somewhere to 3D-print it. You can take a high security ‘non-duplicatable’ key and basically take it to a virtual hardware store to get it copied.”
Read their full interview at Forbes.
Lawrence has also made available the 3D model templates on his website.
3D Printing News
A roundup of the top 3D printing news from July 29 to August 4:
Monday, July 29
Wednesday, July 31
Thursday, August 1
Friday, August 2
Saturday, August 3
MIT Researches Use CGI Techniques to Simplify 3D Printing
A group of researchers at MIT are taking a page from the movie business to revolutionize 3D printing. They have developed an architecture pipeline, called OpenFab, that aims to dramatically reduce the learning curve and barriers involved in designing for 3D printing.
“Our goal is to make 3D printing much easier and less computationally complex,” said Associate Professor Wojciech Matusik, co-author of the papers and a leader of the Computer Graphics Group at CSAIL, in an interview with MITnews. “Ours is the first work that unifies design, development and implementation into one seamless process, making it possible to easily translate an object from a set of specifications into a fully operational 3D print.”
With the state of 3D printing today, it’s relatively easy to press print when you have a finished 3D model, but it’s quite a challenge to create a design from scratch that can be 3D printed. OpenFab hopes to change that.
Here is the abstract from the paper published by MIT researchers. Full details available at the OpenFab website.
3D printing hardware is rapidly scaling up to output continuous mixtures of multiple materials at increasing resolution over ever larger print volumes. This poses an enormous computational challenge: large high-resolution prints comprise trillions of voxels and petabytes of data and simply modeling and describing the input with spatially varying material mixtures at this scale is challenging. Existing 3D printing software is insufficient; in particular, most software is designed to support only a few million primitives, with discrete material choices per object.
We present OpenFab, a programmable pipeline for synthesis of multi-material 3D printed objects that is inspired by RenderMan and modern GPU pipelines. The pipeline supports procedural evaluation of geometric detail and material composition, using shader-like fablets, allowing models to be specified easily and efficiently. We describe a streaming architecture for OpenFab; only a small fraction of the final volume is stored in memory and output is fed to the printer with little startup delay. We demonstrate it on a variety of multi-material objects.