Irish Brothers’ Startup Makes 3D Printers Fed By Office Paper
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the brothers when they started building their first prototype. “We were technologists,” Conor says. “We wanted to build a machine. That’s what drove us. The business was completely secondary.”
They worked on the first 3D printer in their spare time and on separate continents, since Fintan still had his job in the U.S. They’d put it all together in the front room of Conor’s Dublin home during the holidays. “We did the whole thing from scratch,” he says. “This was prior to open source.”
It went on like that until 2005, when a contingent of university and industry officials in Ireland, the U.K., and the U.S. all told them their idea had legs, Conor says. That’s when the pair decided to quit their jobs and work on Mcor full-time.
The brothers went all in. They convinced the Bank of Ireland to give them two unsecured loans totaling 200,000 euros ($255,000) for the initial seed money, Conor says. They later cashed in their pension funds and remortgaged their houses. Conor even sold his motorcycle.
But by 2008, they had nearly burned through all their cash, Conor says. Then the startup got its first big break, when Deirdre MacCormack, the company’s chief marketing officer, published a few blog posts about Mcor’s 3D printer idea.
The articles got 2 million hits in 10 days, Conor says. Soon, Boeing and Airbus came knocking to see what the company was about. Mcor hadn’t even finished developing the product at that point, let alone made its first sale, Conor recalls. The company had its work cut out, but the outside interest was validating, he adds.
That publicity helped Mcor snag an investment in 2009 from an Irish couple who had graduated from Stanford University and were interested in the technology, Conor says, declining to share the deal’s size or the couple’s names. In 2012, the company got $2 million (1.6 million euros) from San Jose, CA-based Irish Technology Capital. Last June, Mcor raised $12 million in a round led by WHEB, which has offices in London and Munich.
Now, the startup must deliver on the promise its investors see in it. With its new influx of cash, Mcor is boosting sales and marketing efforts and distributing its products to more places around the world. But the bulk of the new capital will be spent on R&D, Conor says. “Like any good 3D printing company, we’re trying to make things faster and smaller, with more capabilities, more resolution, and better color,” he says. “I can’t tell you exactly what we’re doing.”
Mcor’s target customers include educators, architects, doctors, product designers, and model makers in the fine arts and entertainment industries. Animators and 3D software developers, for example, can use the printers to make detailed, full-color 3D models of their envisioned characters or avatars. A Texas high school teacher asked his students to use an Mcor printer to make interlocking paper gears so they can better understand design principles, and to print 3D architectural models so they can pinpoint problems they might’ve missed on a 2D computer screen. In Belgium, doctors have scanned the shapes of patients’ bones, then used the patterns to print full-size 3D models so they can make more accurate metal plates and other implants.
The company’s flagship printer, the Mcor Iris, prints in full color, with ink being applied pixel by pixel. Its second printer, the Matrix 300+, doesn’t print with ink and can only create layered hues by feeding different-colored pieces of paper into the machine, Conor says. That means the Matrix can handle something like a maroon and white Texas A&M logo, but unlike the Iris, it wouldn’t be sophisticated enough to accurately print all the shades of a human face.
Each printer weighs 350 pounds and stands almost 3 feet tall. The Matrix and Iris cost $40,000 (31,348 euros) and $50,000 (39,185 euros), respectively, meaning Mcor has thus far fallen short on the co-founders’ early retail price goal. While it’s not an apples to apples comparison because Makerbot makes much smaller desktop 3D printers, Makerbot’s printer prices range from $1,375 (1,078 euros) to $6,499 (5,093 euros).
But if a customer is willing to shell out for the up-front cost, the ongoing expenses of Mcor’s printers can be as little as a 10th of the cost of many competitors, Conor says, thanks largely to … Next Page »