As Formlabs arrived at CES 2020 with what may be the first sex toy at the Vegas event to publicly use 3D printing in the design process, the Boston company also came with its growing product line in tow. Located in Startup Alley, Formlabs is presenting over 22 resins for stereolithography, its new 3D printers and numerous printed parts, including a vertebra from the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Radiology’s Anatomic Modeling Lab and the TripleCell shoe line from New Balance, made using Formlabs technology.
The startup’s angle at this year’s event is not to present its 3D printers as consumer machines, as would have been the case circa 2014, but as tools to aid in the production of consumer products.
As CEO and co-founder of Formlabs Max Lobovsky said, “From dentists to designers, people are finding new and exciting ways to leverage our technology. At a show like CES, where most hardware products start with a 3D printed prototype, we’re showing how 3D printing is becoming an integral part of product development to bring better products to consumers.”
For that reason, alongside Dame’s vibrator Eva, developed with 3D printing, Formlabs is showcasing New Balance’s TripleCell series. So far consisting of two shoe models, the TripleCell series uses Formlabs 3D printers and Rebound Resin to produce shoe components. The heel of the 990S TripleCell and the forefoot midsole of the FuelCell Echo Triple are 3D-printed. This year, New Balance aims to produce over 10,000 pairs of shoes using 3D printing technology.
In addition to showcasing its product line and partnerships, Formlabs also announced the launch of a new program dubbed “Formlabs Community Spaces.” Similar to Formlabs’ Ambassador Program, the Community Spaces initiative will see the 3D printer manufacturer team up with existing customers at community tech labs—like the Autodesk Technology Centers in Boston, San Francisco and Toronto—to provide education, first-access to new products, and Formlabs merchandise. Though Formlabs does not give the spaces machines, it will allow community members to test out new materials and use workshop assets.
Community Spaces will receive such benefits as:
- Educational assets, 3D models, and Formlabs merchandise
- Exclusive access to new materials by hosting launch events and displaying them at community spaces
- Exposure to the Formlabs community via Formlab’s social media and other PR
- Recognition on the Formlabs website and an upcoming Community Map(currently the events page)
To qualify for the program, Formlabs customers must have a “best in class technology hub space that can host Formlabs community events and have the suite of Formlabs’ latest hardware Form 3, Wash, Cure and the material libraries that best serve their communities.”
In addition to the Autodesk locations mentioned above, the Gnomon School of Design in Hollywood, mHUB Chicago, and New Lab in New York will all be Formlabs Community Spaces. Ultimately, the 3D printing company aims to expand the program globally.
This strategy obviously benefits Formlabs as a sales and marketing device. By converting Formlabs-friendly hackerspaces into brand-loyal Formlabs Community Spaces, the 3D printer manufacturer has a customer for life. In exchange for PR on Formlabs social media channels and in marketing collateral, these spaces will be more willing to adopt newer Formlabs technologies going forward. So, as these spaces consider the purchase of a low-cost SLS printer, they may be more likely to go for the Fuse 1 from Formlabs, than say the Lisa from Sinterit or the Snow White from Sharebot (I’m now wondering if Formlabs is secretly researching a high-temperature FFF 3D printer, like Roboze, AON3D, 3ntr, etc).
It’s sort of a genius marketing move. We’ll see where it takes them in 2020, but with partners like New Balance, it sounds like Formlabs is already off to a good start.
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