Founder Profile: Dan Downs Taking 3D Printing Back To The Basics
- Jun 16, 2018
R3 Printing Key Deal Stats:
Raising platform: Republic
Valuation Cap: $5M
Raise Type: Seed
At time of publication, June 16, R3 Printing had raised $57.7K
The global 3D printing market is estimated to be worth a whopping $32.8B by 2023 and a NY-based printer manufacturer looks poised to capitalize. R3 Printing co-founders Dan Downs and Paul Sieradzki are taking a different approach to the industry by focusing on something seemingly lost in the VC-saturated market: the product itself.
I chatted with Dan to find out a little more about the logistics behind one of the safest and most efficient 3D printers entering the market. Find out more in our conversation below.
This conversation has been shortened and edited for brevity
Dan, can you tell us how you and your co-founder came together to form R3 printing?
Dan: Paul and I met at Fordham where our first big project was putting a hot tub on the roof of the library. It sounds ridiculous, of course, but the logistics of doing so in midtown Manhattan were extremely complex. Filling it with water, getting power to heat the water, and checking if the roof was weight bearing were all difficult tasks and even more so under the nose of the university.
Solving all these logistical challenges solidified us as a team and we began to see what could be a kernel of a startup growing.
In the late summer of 2013, we bought a 3D printer as a passion project and discovered there was opportunity to make something happen in that space. I left my commercial real estate career in September 2016 and started a 3D print manufacturing business in NYC, where we learned a ton about the challenges and opportunities in the space.
Wow, starting a 3D printing business in NYC sounds fascinating. How did that experience shape the R3 Printing business model?
Dan: We quickly realized that our 3D printing business wasn’t scalable because the hardware was slow and ineffective. But it was pretty clear that the venture dollars for 3D printing went into software upgrades before the hype cycle happened. We knew the tech, the market pain point, and the megatrend, so we were confident that software was only half the problem.
We knew one of the big problems preventing widespread adoption of FMD 3D printers is speed, especially since they were incorrectly marketed as being fast. That is why we have developed the R3 printer to be 90% faster than contemporary mass-market 3D printers, which makes up 76% of the market.
How does one speed up 3D printers by 90%?
Dan: We do so by offboarding key components and reducing the weight of the extruder assembly by over 80%, which prints by stacking the plastic. Our extruder assembly also has a 75% smaller profile, which results in a 200% increase in build area compared to current printers. This means bigger prints, faster.
You also tout this printer as being safer for users. How does that work?
Dan: The crucial safety benefit of our printer is that the active overheat prevention system reduces the occurrence of burns to users, which is the number one cause of injury with 3D printers. The system detects overheating and prevents users from having to manually monitor the machine, which are traditionally often susceptible to warping and melting from overheating.
How does the R3 printer compare in terms of cost to other competitors?
Dan: We aim to provide 80-90% of the quality of commercial printers at twice the speed and at half the unit cost. This price point provides the opportunity for smaller 3D print manufacturers to print high-quality items quickly and at an affordable price. It can really legitimize a huge market that was alienated by either practicality or cost.
What kind of margins can you achieve with the R3 printer?
Dan: Our margins all-in including cost of manufacturing, freight shipping and storage are around 77-78%, which gives us plenty of breathing room.
Is there any concern about threat from the market of others developing similar technology?
Dan: Because we saw hardware as a problem in the printing market, we went deep into the niche of hardware optimization, while most companies have invested their capital and resources in developing software for this space.
We don’t want to move into the open software space, though; we know the tech and hardware well and can really transform the infrastructure of the industry with our hardware skillset.
What do you think the sales process and cycle will look like?
Dan: We’re going with a try-before-you-buy scenario by leveraging cash we raise through venture funding to build out rigs and put them in-house with prospective clients. We’ll give it to them for a quarter to make sure it works and is making them some money.
We’ve been clever in how we’re approaching it—it’s often a situation where the customer doesn’t have access to business capital, so we see an opportunity to lever revenue. With businesses like SoFi, we can throw business their way by making intros for business loans and then we can finalize the relationships with the manufacturers when they purchase our rigs.
R3 Printing is a testament to the importance of infrastructure in product manufacturing. Especially in young markets like that of 3D printing, focusing on the basics can be the catalyst to breaking open the market. You can invest in their SAFE offering on Republic up until July 11 HERE.