Tag Archives: patents
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
Finding Inspiration at the U.S. PTO
If you are looking for novel designs that can be 3D printed, New York-based intellectual property lawyer Martin Galese has lots of ideas, and none of them are his own.
Mr. Galese instead has a very creative approach for sourcing his designs; he finds them in detailed drawings from expired patents from the U.S. PTO.
Here, for example, is a cutting edge watch stand concept from 1979, U.S. Pat. No. 4,293,953, which claims, ”an improved watch stand so that a wrist watch can serve as a night table clock when no being worn on a wrist.”
And here is a self-measuring bottle from U.S. Pat. No. 836,466, dated 1906. It’s incredible that the original designer developed this concept without the support of CAD software, and now it can be brought to life through 3D printing.
His work was recently featured in the New York Times blog, including a chopstick holder from the 1960s and a portable chess set from the 1940s. He told the New York Times, “If you look at the figures in older patents, the 19th century patents are really beautiful. They’re really works of art.”
EFF Seeks to Invalidate 6 Basic 3D Printing Patents
Following through with a statement made in October, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published an intention to invalidate 6 pending patents by collecting prior art from the crowd.
Here is their announcement:
If there’s something that drives us crazy, it’s when patents get in the way of innovation. Unfortunately, we often don’t find out about the most dangerous patents until it’s too late—once they’ve been used to assert infringement. That’s why we were encouraged by the new provision of the patent law that allows third parties to easily challenge patent applications while those applications are still pending.
But, here’s the rub: it’s hard to identify those dangerous applications. And, once you do, it’s even harder to find the right information to challenge those applications during the window that the law allows. So we partnered with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Ask Patents and—most importantly—you.
As of today, we’ve now challenged six pending patent applications that you helped us identify as applications that, if granted, would particularly threaten the growing field of 3D printing technology. Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic hand delivered the first two submissions to the Patent Office earlier this year, and we’ve since sent in four more.
The prior art we’ve submitted so far thanks to your submissions ranges from patents and blog posts to research papers and symposium proceedings. Each prior art document gives the Patent Office tools to reject patent claims for obviousness. That in turn helps protect the diverse, exciting uses of 3D printing that are gaining in popularity each day, from small hobbyist printers to large-scale, high-quality commercial fabrication using materials ranging from titanium to chocolate.
Here are copies of what we submitted to the Patent Office. The good news is that so far, the Patent Office has accepted our submissions (because of that, if you’re thinking of making your own preissuance submissions, you might want to use these as a model). Now we wait to see whether our input influences the examiners.
- Fabrication of Non-Homogeneous Articles Via Additive Manufacturing Using Three-Dimensional Voxel-Based Models
- Build Materials and Applications Thereof
- Method for Generating and Building Support Structures With Deposition-Based Digital Manufacturing Systems
- Process for Producing Three-Dimensionally Shaped Object and Device for Producing Same (Ask Patents request for prior art)
- Additive Manufacturing System and Method for Printing Customized Chocolate Confections (Ask Patents request for prior art)
- Ribbon Filament and Assembly for Use in Extrusion-based Digital Manufacturing Systems (Ask Patents request for prior art)
Our work doesn’t stop here. Next we’re going to investigate a number of pending applications that impact mesh networking technology—another area with an extremely active open development community and with tremendous potential. We’ll be asking you to help us again soon. Stay tuned!
Each of the 6 3D printing patents listed above has a link requesting prior art. The EFF is harnessing the power the crowd to complete their mission.
A roundup of the top news On 3D Printing brought you from December 11 to December 16.
Tuesday, December 11
Thursday, December 13
Friday, December 14
- Well… In Late Night News, Now You Can 3D Print Adult Toys at Home
- Life on the Lunar Base: 3D Printing at the Repair Shop
Sunday, December 16