Exclusive Interview with Solidoodle Founder and CEO, Sam Cervantes About 3D Printing & His Company
When it comes to desktop 3D printers, one of the leading manufacturers of affordable, yet high quality printers is Solidoodle. Recently, the company, run by founder Sam Cervantes, released an entire line of new 3D printers to market, starting at just $599. Although there have been some minor delays in shipments, the company continues to manufacture quality machines as fast as they can, in order to keep up with demand.
3DPrint.com recently had an opportunity to catch up with founder and CEO Sam Cervantes and ask him some questions about Solidoodle, the delays, the company’s future, and where he sees 3D printing going in the next five years. Before founding Solidoodle, Cervantes served as Chief Operations Officer for MakerBot, and also worked as an Aerospace Engineer for General Electric. He knows the 3D printing industry up and down, and has become one of the more well respected names within the industry.
You can find the interview, in its entirety, below:
3DPrint.com: When it came to pre-orders for your new line of 3D printers, did your number meet, exceed, or fall short of expectations?
Sam Cervantes: The preorder was a huge success. It blew away all of our initial projections and we’ve spent the last few months trying to keep up with that demand.
3DPrint.com: How are things going with the latest line of Solidoodle 3D printers? I know there have been some delays. Are things almost normal now?
Sam Cervantes: Yes, things are almost back to normal. Unfortunately, our products were delayed due to a number of factors beyond our control. This being the first overseas production for the company there were some unforeseen challenges. By far the single longest delay was due to port congestion on the West Coast. There is a labor dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Warehouse and Longshore Union (IWLU), which is affecting nearly every company shipping products into the west coast of the U.S. by ocean freight. We watched helplessly as our first shipment of Solidoodle Press printers arrived at the Los Angeles port in early December and then sat on the ship for almost a month before it was finally unloaded. As a result we completely missed the holiday shipping season and exceeded our shipping estimates for preorder customers. But things are improving. Already we have nearly 500 units in the hands of customers and we have thousands more in transit, awaiting unloading. For the future, we’ve begun rerouting shipments to the East Coast, which takes a little more time in transit, but will avoid the port slowdown and allow us to more accurately forecast inventory. Nonetheless, we understand the frustration our preorder customers are expressing and take full responsibility. We hope to exceed their expectations from here on.
3DPrint.com: Which of your newest models have been the most popular so far? The 4, Press, Workbench or Workbench Apprentice?
Sam Cervantes: The Solidoodle Press is our most popular printer. A plug-and-play 3D printer with our great design is really unheard of at $599, so that’s been our best seller by far. After that, the Workbench is a strong seller. Our customers love the dual extruders coupled with the massive 1 cubic foot build volume all for the great price of $1,299.
3DPrint.com: How are you able to keep your prices so low on your 3D printers? When compared to other similar printers on the market, your prices are ridiculously low.
Sam Cervantes: We keep the prices low by keeping in-house as much as possible, including the design and production work. All of our products are designed here in Brooklyn, and we still manufacture much of our product locally, even using our own 3D printers to create parts for other 3D printers. In fact, we have a bank of 40 printers running nonstop printing parts for in-house production. It’s really quite a sight to see all those printers up and running at once. It’s also important to remember that we were the first consumer 3D printer company in many respects, and being first has huge advantages. Solidoodle was the first company to launch a fully assembled 3D printer under $1,000 in September 2011, the first to launch a fully assembled 3D printer for under $500 in April 2012, and then in November 2013, the first to launch a consumer friendly 3D printer under $1,000 that later sold in Best Buy and Staples. At the end of the day, it’s all about really good design. Great design touches the product at every level from engineering, to software, to the usability of the product. Drawing on my background in aerospace engineering and consumer electronics, our team has been able to design a series of products which continually push the boundaries of what’s possible in the 3D printing industry in terms of affordability and ease of use.
3DPrint.com: Do you have any plans to integrate with AutoDesk’s Spark platform in the future?
Sam Cervantes: At this very moment we do not have any plans to integrate with AutoDesk’s Spark platform. They are doing some amazing things, but we have chosen to invest in software that will compliment our printers. We designed SoliPrint to simplify the 3D printing experience by creating a one-click user experience. 3D printing your part is finally as easy as clicking File, Print. Right now we’re focused on pushing out software updates and adding killer new features.
3DPrint.com: What is the coolest thing you have ever seen 3D printed on a Solidoodle 3D printer?
Sam Cervantes: Our customers are always producing amazing things. We’ve seen Solidoodle users build a lifesize Aston Martin, make BattleBots for student competitions, and print prosthetic hands for children, just to name a few. We even saw one of our users hack his Solidoodle to print ice cream!
3DPrint.com: What’s next for Solidoodle?
Sam Cervantes: This year, we have relaunched our interactive design community, Solidoodles.com, and released our own desktop software interface, SoliPrint (see demo of SoliPrint below). We are investing time and resources into adding features and making Solidoodles and SoliPrint amazing products for our customers. We want to provide software and content products that continue our mission to make 3D printing accessible to everyone. Above all, we have plans to sell lots of printers.
Of course, we are also working on our next printer designs, so stay tuned for announcements on that front.
Sam Cervantes: We are always working on new projects and can’t disclose anything just yet.
3DPrint.com: How do you feel the 3D printing industry is developing in general when it comes to desktop 3D printing?
Sam Cervantes: We continue to be on the leading edge of making 3D printing ubiquitous. People are realizing more about the infinite possibilities of what desktop 3D printers can do. With our printers’ low price point and ease of use, desktop 3D printing is now accessible to everyday home users.
3DPrint.com: Do you see the desktop 3D printing space becoming oversaturated with new companies and new 3D printers which basically all do the same things?
Sam Cervantes: Not at all. We’ve attended CES for the past couple of years and have seen the 3D printing section double. If anything, the growing number of companies will force brands to innovate and create products that speak to what consumers truly want and from our perspective that is a simple and easy printing experience.
3DPrint.com: Where do you see desktop 3D printing in 5 years from now? What innovations do you think are next for the industry?
Sam Cervantes: In September 2011 I launched Solidoodle with the goal of putting a 3D printer in every home in the world. This remains our goal today. At the time, there simply was no market for affordable, easy to use 3D printers. Nearly all other 3D printers at the time were kits that required assembly, so we created the market. Today, we’re over 10,000 printers closer our that goal, and we now have the supply chain in place to produce hundreds of thousands of printers, putting us one step closer to putting a 3D printer in every home. As 3D printing moves into the early mainstream market, there will be increasing demand for both ready-to-print content and more intuitive software that allows customers to create and customize content to print at home. We’ve entered a few exciting content partnerships and look forward to building on them and offering other innovative software and content products to our customers.
3DPrint.com: What else do you have to add in relation to 3D printing in general?
Sam Cervantes: Our society faces unprecedented challenges as never seen before in human history. Rising consumption of natural resources, rapid population growth, and income inequality, just to name a few. We need to use technology to solve society’s problems and allow us to live smarter, happier, and more sustainable lives. 3D printing is just one such technology. Imagine a world where consumers can produce their own products locally from renewable resources, rather than having products shipped from all the way around the world, using nonrenewable petroleum for transportation as well as the raw material. Imagine a world where every potential of every school child is limited only by their imagination, not their access to capital or the abundance of domestic markets. The emergence of 3D printing is making this possible. It’s up to us as a society to use this new technology to build a better future.
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