Shape of Things to Come

Car­bon3d is the lat­est hype-beast in 3-D print­ing, but it has the best chance yet to rein­vent manufacturing.

Forbes - - Technology - By aaron tilley

Kirk Phelps wants to change how things get made. He holds up a foppy yel­low cir­cle of plas­tic, a seal­ing gas­ket for a generic au­to­mo­tive en­gine, and ex­plains how this gas­ket is lim­it­ing hu­man cre­ativ­ity. “If you want to make a new kind of en­gine, you don’t get to de­sign the en­gine from the ground up. You ac­tu­ally go to your gas­ket sup­plier and ask what stan­dard gas­kets are avail­able and you de­sign the en­gine around it. This is back­ward,” says Phelps, a 33-year-old prod­uct de­signer who helped de­velop the mul­ti­touch on the iphone.

That frus­tra­tion led him to take the job as head of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment at Car­bon3d, one of the hottest star­tups to come along in the emerg­ing 3-D print­ing industry. The prom­ise of 3-D print­ing is the abil­ity to pro­duce a solid part on the spot based on any dig­i­tal 3-D fle, free­ing en­gi­neers to build their dream en­gine. While some of the high­est-end ma­chines can pre­cisely print small-batch items such as hear­ing aids and ar­tif­cial joints, the vast ma­jor­ity of 3-D prin­ters in use to­day are slow and ca­pa­ble of mak­ing only trin­kets and small pro­to­types. The early hype around 3-D print­ing peaked a cou­ple of years ago, and now shares of the two big pub­licly traded prin­ter man­u­fac­tur­ers, Strata­sys and 3D Sys­tems, are 80% of their highs.

Car­bon3d is rein­ject­ing ex­cite­ment into the feld. Its CEO and co­founder, Joseph Desi­mone, a 51-year-old en­trepreneur and former chem­istry pro­fes­sor from the Univer­sity of North Car­olina at Chapel Hill, came up with a new way to print ob­jects in 3-D so quickly and pre­cisely that Se­quoia Cap­i­tal part­ner Jim Goetz (the sole backer

Plas­tic man: Ceo Joseph Desi­mone is break­ing speed records with his 3-D prin­ters, in­spired in part by s liq­uid cy­borg.

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