With 3-D printing leading toward direct digital manufacturing and a possible market revolution in terms of cost effectiveness, the timing is perfect for an inexpensive 3-D printer designed for personal use.
That’s the idea that came to Michael Armani and David Jones, co-founders of M3D, two years ago. Their business is one of the first to enter the field of 3-D printing with a consumer product ready to use out of the box.
“We were each working on different projects at the University of Maryland, bouncing ideas off each other on ways to automate our projects and reduce the cost,” Armani said. “We hit on this idea and realized it was too big of an opportunity to lose, so we quit our jobs and began working together.”
Roughly the size of a small toaster and priced at $349, M3D’s Micro 3D printer attracted the attention of investors and customers almost immediately.
“Sales have been unexpectedly high,” said Jones, acknowledging that the company is working its way through building a backlog of 12,000 initial orders. “We hope to scale up to producing tens of thousands [annually] beginning sometime in January.”
The duo launched a Kickstarter campaign in April with the modest goal of raising $50,000 in 30 days.
“We didn’t imagine that we’d hit $1 million by the end of the first day and finish our campaign with $3.4 million,” Armani said.
In October 2014, M3D moved from Bethesda into a 12,000-square-foot space in Maple Lawn that allows the collocation of production and office space.
“Now we can communicate and make any necessary changes quickly,” Jones said.
Working 18 hours a day for two years with no vacation isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, he said, but the effort is paying off. “We’re approaching 50 employees, and we’re already recognizing the need for more space and a lager labor force,” Jones said.