By Sarah Feldberg | Last Updated on
Chris McCoy and Lori Chen
Making 3D printing accessible to anyone in the world
The backstory: Envisioning the future of 3D printing
Mechanical engineer Chris McCoy was on a Fulbright scholarship in Spain working on his PhD when he first recognized the potential of 3D printing. The emerging technology could make prototype development painless and create custom solutions to individual problems. Access was the issue. “It was a locked door that I didn’t have a key to.”
Chris imagined a platform for collaborative manufacturing, an online destination where anyone with an idea could go for a design and 3D-printed fabrication. He began working on the concept in 2012, and in October 2014, You3DIt was born.
Today, You3DIt connects customers to an active network of skilled designers and experienced 3D printers who can turn an idea into a product or prototype in a matter of days. Together, Chris and co-founder/COO Lori Chen have unlocked the door to 3D printing for customers around the world.
Building the business: Introducing 3DP to customers
For Chris and Lori, succeeding also means changing the mindset of their potential customers. “Everyday people don’t think of what I can get made, they think about what I can go to the store and buy,” says Chris.
To demonstrate the potential of 3D printing, You3DIt created their own product: Raver Rings. Custom sized and available in a variety of colors, the two-finger rings feature a snap-on LED that flashes for prime dancing pleasure. McCoy used high-end Voltivo ExcelFil filament supplied by Cubicity to produce rings that have a satisfying feel and finish, and he filmed time-lapse videos of the printing to introduce the process to potential customers.
Boosting quality: Filament matters at You3DIt
As early adopters in a new space, Chris and Lori are evangelists for the potential of 3D printing and tech support for You3DIt clients who need assistance making their visions a reality. “Expectations of quality for 3D printing are tough to meet,” says Lori. While Apple-like finishes aren’t available with the current technology, quality is constantly improving.
Sourcing filament from Cubicity has been key to You3DIt’s strategy. “Bad filament can undermine a major project,” Chris says. “You can’t make a good cake with bad ingredients.”
By purchasing higher-quality filaments and learning how best to use them, You3DIt has been able to avoid tangles and blockages that can delay a print or a damage a project. “You save time using Cubicity filaments because you skip those problems,” Chris explains.
Customers are taking note. Lori recently printed a set of Victorian-style decorative keys for a band’s album release party using Voltivo’s ExcelFil TECH aluminum composite filament. They looked so good, the client put in a second order. “These repeat customers help validate what you’re doing,” Lori says.
Looking forward: Massive growth lies ahead
In less than two years, You3DIt has made huge strides toward Chris’ original vision of opening up 3D printing to the general consumer. Thousands of users have joined the site, and the company’s network includes printers in more than 28 countries. So far, 500 projects have been completed through You3DIt’s community of designers and fabricators.
Looking to the future, Chris and Lori see the potential for massive growth. In eight to 10 years, they plan to be the Amazon web servers of flexible manufacturing, the destination for anyone on the planet to 3D print their idea.