ó Entrepreneur Dan Shapiro has a long history in the
high-tech industry. He founded Sparkbuy, a
price-comparison site, was CEO of Google Comparison and
launched photo-sharing service PhotoBucket.
his most rewarding work, he says, has involved creating
tangible things that people can touch and feel.
was building my dining-room table," Shapiro said.
"It was creating a bookcase for my mom."
new company is most definitely tangible ó but with a
enterprise, Glowforge, enables other people ó
designers, small-business owners, hobbyists, parents ó
to create things with a 3-D laser printer that can sit
on a small desk. The small machine uses a laser to cut
through pretty much any type of material and engrave on
surfaces ó even on laptops.
14-person Glowforge team apprehensively made the printer
available for pre-orders at Glowforge.com.
it didnít raise at least $100,000, it couldnít even
partner with a factory to manufacture the device. If it
didnít raise at least $1 million, it would know
something was wrong with its predictions.
hit the $1 million mark in the first 12 hours. As of
last week, eight days after the campaign launched, it
had raised $5.35 million and the number was still
kind of blowing my mind," Shapiro said.
may not have happened five years ago, when 3-D printing
was something individuals rarely could access, and Etsy,
an e-commerce site with artisan handmade products, was
so-called "maker movement," in which products
are made from physical materials, has been in existence
for more than a decade, but itís been booming in the
went public in April. Maker Faire, a media and events
company, hosted more than 240 conventions last year.
Collaborative-building spaces for makers are popping up
all over the country.
are once again realizing how important working with
physical objects is, said Dale Dougherty, founder of
Maker Faire and chairman of Maker Media, an organization
that runs Maker Faire, Make: magazine and a
are coming back to realize itís important to our kids
not to just interact with iPads and phones, but also to
engage," he said. "Making is a high form of
could mean 3-D printed toys, hats that light up or any
type of invention that tinkering can bring.
2009, when MakerBot burst onto the scene with a small,
easy-to-use device, 3-D printing has caught on. Learning
complicated software and programs are no longer required
to operate such machines, and prices have become
realistic for small businesses. Makerbots start at about
$1,375 and range to more than $6,000.
has helped propel the maker movement are easy
distribution channels for small businesses, said Zach
Kaplan, a leader in the movement and CEO of Inventables,
which makes a 3-D carving machine.
who want to sell the products they make can now sell
them on Etsy, Amazon.com, Shopify or many other sites.
Thereís no need to take every invention to a retailer
to try to find a partner.
donít need to make a million units anymore to
sell," Kaplan said. "You can make one. And if
no one wants it, itís like ĎOK. I just made one.í"
risk of making mistakes has lowered significantly,
helped by less expensive devices.
can be preordered starting at $1,995 for a basic model,
and up to $3,995 for the more advanced machine. Thatís
a fraction of the price Shapiro paid for an $11,000
laser printer he imported from China. He spent months
tinkering with the machine in his garage before forming
Glowforge machines, which will sell for about twice the
preorder cost after the Kickstarter, can cut and engrave
just about any material you can think of. The companyís
warehouse office in Seattle is full of creations ó
computer stands cut from wood, intricately engraved game
pieces, childrenís toys made from cardboard.
Glowforge team members have come up with any number of
projects including cutting cardboard and piecing it
together to make lamps and engraved wedding invitations
on delicate wood squares. They even cut chocolate to
make cupcake toppers shaped like rockets.
original thinking was that Glowforge printers would be
targeted at designers and hobbyists, but Shapiro has
found an even wider audience of engineers, big companies
and parents who want to work on crafts with their kids.
OíBrien, a product manager in Washington, D.C.,
preordered the machine to make toys and gadgets with his
twin 3-year-old daughters.
really killer feature was the ability to draw something,
and all in one push, scan and engrave and cut it,"
of the parents who have preordered a printer are
familiar with Shapiroís work from a previous
Kickstarter he ran ó Robot Turtles, a coding game for
kids, which shattered records on the crowdfunding
the Glowforge, users can scan pen drawings, design in
Microsoft Word or create a file in a multitude of other
programs. The company also created a catalog containing
ideas and designs.
compares the difference between a 3-D printer and the
Glowforge to a tiny robot holding a glue gun, drawing up
layer after layer, and a tiny robot holding a light
is like a robot with a little light saber who goes in,
cuts away and engraves over the surface of the
material," he said.
the productís premiere at the World Maker Faire in New
York last month, hundreds of people lined up to make a
print on the machine. At one point, the line was more
than two hours long, Shapiro said.
excitement makes sense, said Maker Faireís Dougherty.
Laser cutters have traditionally cost about $30,000,
making it an unappealing tool for many.
think itís going to be very popular and fill a really
important niche," he said.
into the market, Glowforge does face competition from
Makerbotís 3-D printer; Inventables, which is creating
a 3-D carver; and many others. Inventablesí Kaplan
compares them all to a set of tools.
people will buy several devices, he said. You need both
a hammer and a screwdriver to complete many jobs.
has raised more than $9 million from investors, in
addition to $5 million from preorders.
team is "desperately" looking to hire, Shapiro
said. The next hurdles include determining the total
number of preorders, contracting with a manufacturer and
partnering with retail stores.
didnít think we would find our audience so
quickly," Shapiro said. "I donít think we
were prepared for how passionate that audience was going
to be about it." On forums for Glowforge buyers, at
least two people have noted they sold their cars to buy
will start arriving in December, and the company hopes
to have all preorders shipped by the middle of next