#9: 3D Printing Will Sustain Us (i.e. Me)

Jasper_NameI think, therefore I 3D print.

That is what makes my world go round. I dream, I plan, I draft, I 3D print, and then I rest. It’s what makes our startup possible. Without it there is no way we would be able to afford to develop something like Merge.

Heck, we don’t even have a 3D printer in the office! The local public library has a pretty nice 3D printer that charges out at the shocking price of $0. Yeah. Zero. Take a look at this little video I shot of one of our past design concepts being printed:


I need to know how a design will feel in a user’s hands. Just as UX designer A/B tests a set of user interfaces, I need to test various device designs. Without 3D printing the prototyping process once took weeks for a single sample. Now I can do the same thing in less than a day.

Of course 3D printing is only half the equation as we still have to develop the actual components and machining. That’s where CNC machining comes in.

I remember back in college I took a drafting class where we were tasked to create something in AutoCAD and then have it 3D printed. This was around 1999 and 3D printing was pretty cutting edge at the time and only a couple of us in the class had ever seen a 3D printer let alone use one. In the end, I created a beer funnel. Yeah, not my finest hour. In hindsight I should have created something with a little more substance. Oh well.

Now I use 3D printing for all kinds of applications. If a Lego set leaves out a key piece, say for my Death Star, I find the open source CAD file, run to the library on a lunch break and I have the piece soon after. Somehow it has made my Lego world more interesting. I often bring my daughter along on weekends. She explored the Kitchener Public Library and I 3D print. It’s works out nicely.

I finally dragged Alison with me the last time I 3D printed. I think it was good for her to get out of the office and not on her own for once. She’s been a little quiet the last couple of weeks with Ryan out of the office shopping Merge to more VCs and we’ve been playing parents to the rest of the office that has grown tense.

We’ve been open and upfront with the team on the finance side, but I think the whole team seems to have taken the news as a rallying call. Some of the more creative minded members of the team are preparing a script and shooting b-roll for a Kickstarter video in case Ryan isn’t successful in bringing in an influx of cash.

When we chatted with Ryan on Wednesday he finally sounded optimistic. That may have been because Jason Hamilton was on the call with Alison and myself, but Ryan tends to not shy away from the truth. If there’s bad news he is fairly upfront with it.

“I’m in Seattle today and hopping on a plane to San Francisco in a couple days,” Ryan told us this morning. “So far in Seattle I’ve only had to sit in front of one guy in a suit which is a good sign.”

“Why’s that a good sign?” I asked.

“In my experience the more dressed down the VC the quicker the money will materialize once the handshake is over,” Jason chimed in. “If the VC meets you in their office in a 3 piece suit or Jimmy Choo heels they are more often than not very careful with their money and have a team of CPA’s ready to vet the company for weeks on end instead of taking a stab at the data and business plan themselves.”

“That’s right,” Ryan said clearly walking down the street somewhere. “I don’t need to hear a yes from one of these people only to wait months for a cheque to come rolling in. We need the cash and if possible we need a couple more well connected allies in our corner. No offense Jason.”

“None taken,” Jason said in an out of character monotone.

“How are the devices holding up out in the world?” Alison asked as she rolled hers in her right hand nervously. “Any issues that we can work on before you finish out your last few stops?”

“There’s a bit of lag in the app database that you put together and the tethering component cuts out after 90 minutes of constant use, but other than that I’m fielding a number of compliments.”

Compliments but no deals.

“Is there anything the hardware side can get working on in the meantime?” I asked.

“Cases,” Ryan said.

“Phone cases?” I asked, not understanding.

“Yes, phone cases. I’ve cracked the back of one of the demos after dropping it on the ground and until we release a pre-order or Kickstarter we need to keep the devices out of danger. Besides, having a case will stop prying eyes from catching a long glimpse at our demo devices. I have the VCs under NDAs, but their secretaries and delivery guys aren’t under any restrictions.”

That’s why I dragged Alison to the library to 3D print yesterday. I can create a case layout easy enough, but I want to add a little creativity to the designs and that’s not exactly my strong suit. By the end of the afternoon we had 5 funky designs printed off that we took back to the office for the staff to vote on over beers.

You know what, it was a pretty fun Thursday. Thanks 3D printing!

Next Post – #10: Selling Myself to VC’s Like a Hooker

Previous Post – #8: Flaws in the Open Office Concept


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