September 2020 Amber Grant Awarded to re:3D
We’re thrilled to announce the $10,000 September Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Samantha Snabes, Co-Founder of re:3D. Samantha is the tenth qualifier for the $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.
In our interview below, Samantha shares the purpose behind re:3D, her motivation, the impact of her enterprise and so much more.
Note: Applications are currently being accepted for the October Amber Grant. You can apply today to be considered.
WN: Describe re:3D and the purpose it serves.
SS: At re:3D we are working to enable anyone, anytime, anywhere to have the tools they need to independently problem-solve onsite. As part of this focus, we are committed to decimating the cost & scale barriers to functional 3D printing. After pioneering the world’s first affordable, human-scale industrial 3D printer (the Gigabot), re:3D is now enabling 3D printing from reclaimed plastic directly from pellets or flake (Gigabot X). Along the way, we’ve been honored to donate one Gigabot for every 100 3D printers sold to someone trying to make a difference.
We are also passionate about supporting conversations around new job creation and ensuring that our offices are invested in local entrepreneurship & education initiatives.
WN: What differentiates your product from competitors’?
SS: While the 3D printing market has become increasingly competitive, concentration within the industry remains low. Four limiting factors constrain the market potential of industrial 3D printing: cost, printer size, printing speed & access to input material.
As a social enterprise committed to access and new job creation, re:3D is actively addressing all of these limitations through pellet & flake extrusion that can accept virgin or recycled plastic.
Gigabot®, re:3D’s flagship technology is cost/scale the most affordable industrial 3D printer on the market, distinguished by a modular frame and a commitment to owners that all improvements & re-designs are offered as retrofit kits so their printers never expire. Loyal customers thus become accounts, continuously purchasing enhancements and consumables as the technology evolves with lifetime customer support. This platform can now be modified to 3D printing with filament or pellets or flake expanding the possibility to print anywhere on demand affordably and sustainably.
WN: How are you marketing the re:3D brand?
SS: With trade shows, live demo, factory tours and traditional market channels suspended, our team decided that we would use the limited resources we would have spent on marketing to support our community during this time of uncertainty. Our social mission defines our brand, and with so much need, we decided our brand should commit to supporting existing & new relationships for as long as we can during the COVID crisis.
As a small business with a global presence, re:3D lives and breaths its mission to democratize access to manufacturing. Our focus on providing a tool for anyone, anywhere, anytime to be the problem solvers for their community has connected us with like-minded change-makers around the world, and the pandemic has only served to solidify our resolve and emphasize the fact that 21st century problems need 21st century solutions. From our outpost in Puerto Rico to our customers and partners in Turkey, Kenya, Nigeria and beyond, re:3D and its network has exemplified manufacturing as a service in helping our communities innovate throughout the pandemic.
In early March, word spread across the globe that remote Italian hospitals were using 3D printing to rapidly prototype and manufacture valves for ventilators because traditional supply chains were collapsing. Over the course of just a few days, re:3D joined forces with multiple ad hoc networks of designers, makers and engineers to organize the world’s 3D printing resources and laser focus it on solutions to fight COVID-19. re:3D put out the word that we would prototype, for free, any life-saving devices for review by healthcare professionals:
We worked with doctors at a local hospital to develop a custom face shield
We created hands-free door pulls for use on military base
We advised on the production of intubation chambers for cardiology
We designed a flexible face mask for America Makes
We consulted on and 3D printed human-powered ventilator designs for NASA
While putting our engineering talents on the task, we organized within our communities, joining forces with local efforts to advise, coordinate and fulfill needs. In Puerto Rico, we connected our customers together to combine efforts to 3D print face shields and valves as they stood up a manufacturing center filled with our large format Gigabot 3D Printers trucked in from across the Island. In Austin we collected and created face shields to support Masks for Docs. In Houston, we served as a distribution hub for local community members making PPE in their own homes and delivered over 40% of the maker made PPE for the city-wide effort. As that effort began to wind down, and traditional manufacturing was starting to meet hospital demand, we transitioned to a new focus: local businesses. The CDC reported that minority and underserved communities were developing critical illness from COVID-19 at a much higher rate, and we were concerned their needs were not being met. With fiscal support from Impact Hub Houston we launch PPE for the People, which donates PPE to struggling businesses in those communities to keep them and their customers safe. Beyond our local communities, we sent face shields to a Nigerian NGO performing coronavirus prevention efforts in refugee camps. These efforts combined have facilitated over 8500 items of PPE donated.
For our global network of customers we created a website where they could share their own efforts at producing PPE for their communities and communicate how others could join them. We highlighted their work in newsletters and in social media to help spread their networks. We knew from experience that the more you could coordinate, the more PPE got produced and into the hands of those it could protect.
re:3D is not just focused on this pandemic, but the next disaster, too. We learned from surviving three hurricanes in one year that mitigation and resilience are key to all of our futures, and supply chains will be disrupted again, and we’ve shared that knowledge in the advisory groups we participate in. Our most recent project is designing shipping container sized manufacturing centers to deploy in disaster zones so that hyper-local solutions can be fabricated as needed during times of duress. re:3D has done all of this while undergoing a strong drop in sales due to the pandemic and facing an ever shortening fiscal runway. That’s how important our mission is to us, and we will continue to serve.
WN: Share some advice you’d give an aspiring female entrepreneur.
SS: As women I think sometimes we try to get all of the information and to get everything right before asserting ourselves & our product. This can be especially difficult when you are creating a new market or solution that requires culture change.
Running an open-source, socially-driven, bootstrapped hardware company has made me appreciate the need to engage customers (who we consider micro-investors), team & community alongside our journey from the beginning, even when we don’t have everything figured out.
People tell us at re:3D that we are crazy almost every day for not fundraising, for not outsourcing our manufacturing and assembly. For donating one 3D printer for every 100 sales, for spending so much time and money trying to create large scale affordable 3D printers to print from plastic waste in an undefined market. For opening an outpost in Puerto Rico and staying after the hurricanes, and for being open-source. While we may be crazy, we have had the honor of learning from an amazing group of humans that have left multiple fingerprints on our product & company. These influences have shaped what we do in ways we could have never accomplished individually.
re:3D’s success so far is an outcome of a dynamic and passionate group of people that work hard together, that I gain inspiration from everyday. Our best advice is to share your vision far & wide as early as possible and to not be afraid to take the road less traveled.