The sub-$1,000 3D printer is so hip right now; everyone’s making them. But Solidoodle founder Sam Cervantes was making them in 2011, probably back before you even knew what a 3D printer was.
Cervantes welcomed me into Solidoodle’s Brooklyn-based factory on a recent trip to New York, where the company still churns out sub-$1,000 printers today. Just ahead of the launch of its Solidoodle 4 printer, the staff was busy cranking out Solidoodle 3s; a sturdy 3D printer released in 2012 that Cervantes famously stood on to demonstrate its strength.
Every printer begins as a metal frame.
Then it is outfitted with a metal print platform and electronics.
A boxy motor and print nozzle sit on parallel metal rods, allowing them to glide back and forth while printing.
Many of the parts used to hold everything together are printed on other Solidoodle printers. The factory houses a big shelf of printers that are constantly at work printing the next generation.
After assembly, each printer is tasked with printing a precisely designed shape. If it passes the test, it is ready to ship.
Printers are packaged and shipped from the front of the factory, where a tower of boxes threatens to topple over. Cervantes said the company ships a few hundred printers a week.
Cervantes entered the world of 3D printer startups at MakerBot, where he spent a year as COO. He left determined to build a printer that shipped to users assembled and ready to use as, at the time, the trend among MakerBot and other 3D printer makers was to ship DIY kits to users. Since then, ready-to-print machines has become the norm.
“It’s wonderful to have a thriving ecosystem,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes emphasized that as the first company to ship a fully assembled printer for less than $1,000 and the first to sell a printer for less than $700, he expects there to be more “firsts” ahead for Solidoodle. But in the increasingly crowded 3D printer industry, those firsts will be harder and harder to fight for. Perhaps there will always be a niche of people out there who need a 3D printer that’s strong enough to stand on.