Sam Cervantes, a former aerospace engineer, spent almost a year as chief of operations for Brooklyn-based 3D printing powerhouse Makerbot before leaving at the end of 2010 under undisclosed circumstances. But after about a year, he bounced back into the 3D printing scene with his own printer and company, Solidoodle. The basic printer starts at just $499, making it one of the cheapest at-home 3D printers on the market.
While still largely an underground phenomenon, the 3D printing market is getting more competitive. There are about 12 companies selling 3D printers or kits, Mr. Cervantes said, and about three or four for under $1,000. ”A lot of the other guys are focused on making the machine really high functioning,” he said in an interview with Betabeat. “We’re focused on making the machine affordable and easy to use.”
Mr. Cervantes had a booth at yesterday’s New York Tech Day, where he said about half the attendees were seeing a 3D printer for the first time. Yet awareness of the method is growing as 3D printing activity makes the news. Two major 3D printing companies, one of which was otherwise headed for a $500 million IPO, just merged for $1.4 billion, and Shapeways is opening a distribution center in Queens.
Mr. Cervantes and a six-person team of engineers in Park Slope assemble all the printers by hand. “Solidoodle is designed from scratch,” Mr. Cervantes said. “Everything is brand new.”
When asked why he left Makerbot, Mr. Cervantes declined to elaborate. “All I can say is, I have a lot of respect for the Makerbot guys,” he said.
Makerbot’s Replicator is $1,749, typical for printers on the market. Solidoodle is lower resolution, Mr. Cervantes said, but he engineered it to be affordable, durable and easy to use. “We used really good engineering,” he said. “We’re an engineering company first, that’s what we do.”
A 200 lb. man could stand on a Solidoodle while it’s printing, he said.