When it comes to companies adopting additive manufacturing processes into their production practices, two paths lie ahead: pay to staff up and train people to run 3D-printing production in-house, or outsource any 3D-printing needs to a commercial printer.
Max Friefeld is betting on the increasing popularity of the second option with his new company, Voodoo Manufacturing. Launched on Oct. 6, it’s a Brooklyn-based commercial printing service for small to mid-size companies—the ones who don’t need more than a dozen prototypes before placing a bulk order, and won’t need more than 10,000 units of whatever it is they’re having 3D printed. Think of the producers selling goods through Etsy, and you have the sort of customer Voodoo Manufacturing hopes to woo. (Voodoo Manufacturing is actually one of several companies listed in the directory for Etsy’s forthcoming manufacturing marketplace, which will match small sellers on Etsy with outside manufacturing services.)
Friefeld thinks Voodoo Manufacturing can fill a gap in the outsourcing marketplace for 3D-printed goods—somewhere in between larger commercial printing services like Stratasys Direct Manufacturing and a platform like 3D Hubs, which connects those looking for 3D printing services to any one of a number of local providers.
“It’s for people who need stuff printed but don’t want to get their own 3D printers,” says the 23-year-old CEO. “With Voodoo, we wanted to make a centralized version of that so people could rely on us and count on us to make plastic parts.”
Voodoo Manufacturing’s big splash last week is probably due in part to its origins: The company was spun out of MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based manufacturer of 3D printers, in June, and has raised $300,000 in funding so far.
To those who follow the 3D-printing industry, Friefeld’s name should sound familiar. He was one of several co-founders of Layer By Layer, a former Y Combinator startup that was hoping to be a marketplace for 3D-printable content, an online storefront of sorts that could partner with big brands and get them to agree to provide 3D-printable versions of their products. Think about buying a new Lego kit, and then think about being able to create 3D-printed Lego bricks to supplement whatever bricks came in the kit. A nice idea, maybe, but one that didn’t really take off for Layer By Layer.
“We were serving a very small market that was not growing quickly enough,” says Friefeld.
What’s more, he and his Layer By Layer co-founders soon realized Brooklyn-based MakerBot had the same vision. (For example: MakerBot’s partnership with “Sesame Street” means that 3D-printable files of characters from the show are available on MakerBot’s digital store.) In 2014, two years after Layer By Layer was founded, MakerBot acquired the startup, and Friefeld and several of his Layer By Layer co-founders became part of a MakerBot software team that would go on to develop the Innovation Center Management Platform. That’s the software that supports what happens inside the MakerBot Innovation Centers—like the one in operation at the State University of New York at New Paltz—by tracking printer usage, problems, and print requests.
Oliver Ortlieb and Jonathan Schwartz, two of Friefeld’s Layer By Layer co-founders, are also co-founders of Voodoo Manufacturing. Patrick Deem, a former project manager at MakerBot, is the fourth co-founder.
When Voodoo Manufacturing spun off in the summer, it got the best of what it helped create for MakerBot. Its factory in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn produces 3D-printed parts using 127 models of MakerBot’s Replicator 2 desktop printer, and factory operations are run using the Innovation Center software. Voodoo is an entirely separate company, but still benefits from its MakerBot connection: Autodesk, for instance, was a client of Voodoo’s passed to them by MakerBot.
In addition to Autodesk, the company, which has five full-time workers including Friefeld, has worked with the likes of Chipotle and Intel. While Voodoo Manufacturing is a new company, what it’s offering has already been around. For instance, its drag-and-drop 3D file visualizer that gives customers an instant price quote is similar to what’s been available from a company like Proto Labs. But the new company’s claims are bold: Friefeld says orders for prototypes, or less than a dozen units, will be 30% cheaper on average—compared to searching for a 3D-printing provider on a site like 3D Hubs—and always ship out the following day. Ultimately, though, Voodoo Manufacturing is looking to attract customers who need to 3D print final products.
“The real goal here is to produce end-use parts,” says Friefeld.
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