August 4, 2013
When Steph Avalos-Bock and Marc Auger decided to major in music at the University of Chicago, they never thought their degrees would translate into 3D printing. However, the hype surrounding 3D was too fascinating for them not to analyze. Quickly, they recognized the potency of 3D printing and got on the bus before it left the station: music could wait.
Last fall they completed their first 3D printer, but despite the success of actually constructing the thing, they found its engineering capabilities imperfect and frustrating. After revamping their design and nine grueling months of work, the duo pulled it off. We got an insider view of their revolutionary Isis One 3D printer.
Tech Cocktail: Where did the idea for Isis One come from?
Steph Avalos-Bock and Marc Auger: After building our first RepRap-style 3D, we were impressed by three things. First, we had just built a 3D printer, which was awesome. Second, this technology has enormous potential. And third, like all the other consumer 3D printers we had seen, it sucked.
It was a terrible execution of a brilliant idea. Then it occurred to us that we could do better while also building a company around an inexpensive 3D printer that was actually useful.
Tech Cocktail: So what separates Isis One from other 3D printers?
Avalos-Bock and Auger: The current professional 3D printers available are highly capable but prohibitively expensive. Other models are cheap, unreliable toys that make cutesy figurines but not much else.
The Isis One achieves the capabilities, reliability, and print quality of the high-end pro machines in an affordable and easy-to-use consumer product that can fit on your desk. It is a supremely useful machine for engineers, architects, designers, and hobbyists.
Tech Cocktail: How do you see the Isis One fitting into, or perhaps shaping, the 3D printing trend?
Avalos-Bock and Auger: Most of the hype around 3D printing focuses on the novelty of the technology. The marketing usually goes something like, “Hey look! A 3D printer!” which conveniently glosses over the fact that it does not work well.
Isis One manages to deliver three things no one else has achieved for under $25,000: fully professional print quality, reliability, and a range of capabilities that make the machine truly useful to an engineer. We’ve broken down the barrier between consumer and pro.
As we move forward, our main goal is to marry cutting-edge technology with fantastic design in an effort to create powerful 3D printers accessible to all.
Tech Cocktail: What have been some of the hardest and most rewarding moments with Isis One so far?
Avalos-Bock and Auger: The biggest challenge was the standard of print quality we insisted on holding ourselves to. We received a sample part from Stratasys, a high-end competitor, that had been printed using their machine with a six-digit price tag.
That level of print quality seemed unachievable at first, but we would not be deterred. Around April, Isis One started making prints that our friends thought were Stratasys prints. It has not been an easy journey, but we are proud to say we have made it.
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