An Interview with Katy Jeremko, re:3D
With our expert interview series, we are always seeking to bring further insight into the areas of technology we cover. More recently, we have been focusing on various aspects of 3D printing in its many forms and iterations. We originally connected with Katy Jeremko and her company, re:3D via Twitter and knew that they had a lot of fantastic information to share. Ms. Jeremko is a co-founder of the company and currently works as an Industrial Design Engineer and the lead creative there. The company developed and built one of the nicest large-scale 3D printers we have seen to date, the GigaBot. We suppose, given their location, its only appropriate to have this kind of operation based there, because as the familiar trope goes “Everything is bigger in Texas!” The interview was conducted via email and the transcript is below.
1) How and when did you all decide to get into 3-D printing? What is it from your background that led you to this point?
re:3D's leadership team came from the cross-pollination of groups out of NASA JSC and Opportunity International. Many of our team members were working for NASA's Open Government Initiative, mining and curating NASA's data in an open source database for public use. That's when we started paying attention to 3D printing. We felt that 3D printing could pull meaning from a maker's weekend to people in remote locations to solve their own local problems.
From Maker Faire in 2012, we all chatted on the phone about how we could use 3D printing for human scale solutions, how we could leverage trash for materials, and 3D print composting toilets for areas of need. Space is in our blood, we believe space & society are inextricably linked. As citizen scientists and explorers ourselves, we want to help others to have access to technologies such as 3D printers to inspire their own change and future technology advancements.
2) How did you come up for the idea for the re:3D? Is there any significance with the name?
Built on intentionality and purpose, we have viewed 3D printing from day 1 as a lifecycle systems opportunity. Simply, re:3D is defined as (in reference to - re:) (everything - 3D).
3) Who are the key employees at your company and what are their roles?
Our team is composed of NASA-trained mechanical engineers, complemented by domain experts in 3D printing, design, entrepreneurship, and finance. Samantha Snabes is our catalyst - a repeat Entrepreneur from biotech. Matthew Fiedler is our Chief Hacker: NASA maker, Neuroscientist and Gigabot inventor. I myself am an Industrial Design Engineer and the lead creative. Our other leadership is comprised of Lara Jeremko, profitability engineer; Ernie Prado, operations overlord; Chris Gerty, technologist; and Mike Battaglia, customer support manager and usability engineer.
4) What type of material or filament does your Gigabot technology work best with? Do you have plans to expand into other materials in the future?
Utilizing fused filament fabrication technology, Gigabot achieves industry-standard layer resolution of 100 microns. Filament input materials include PLA, ABS, nylon, T-Glase, NinjaFlex, Laywood, or any thermoplastic extruding below 400°C. We did this by partnering with leaders in materials science innovation, by designing our hardware to accept more variety, and by securing a relationship with University of Texas to do tensile strength and material testing in the J.J. Pickle Research lab.
5) What are build sizes are possible within Gigabot? Is the technology scalable at all at this point?
Gigabot prints a 2ft cube, literally overshadowing the competition with a volume 30X larger than desktop units. Currently, we are building a 42" build volume bot, which we affectionately started to call the "1.5 meter bot" (it's huge, check out the work on RepRap forum: http://forums.reprap.org/read.php?1,520294). We'll never go smaller, but we actively explore where and how to expedite R&D based on market demand..
6) Without giving away any trade secrets, can you talk a little bit about how your machine actually prints?
We built Gigabot on top of the RepRap share-alike licenses and our technology is FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication), utilizing a cartesian chasis (x,y,z axis). At re:3D, we have a saying "Think Big, Print Huge" that speaks to our in-house expertise and the ways we have mitigated printing bigger than a breadbox. We machine everything in-house and nothing is off the shelf, where open source technology stands. We're logging data and insights around patterns in large objects for affordability and weight bearing strength. We have no IP and are continuing to explore how to add value to the open source community.
8) With the build structure/functionality/technology of your Gigabot, especially if you buy the unassembled kit, is it possible or encouraged for users to customize the design further, or does that get pretty murky for you all?
Absolutely. We encourage, respond to, and love our hardware hackers. That's why we ran a second Kickstarter project around an open source spin-off of Gigabot—to explore the viability of new product features and community hacks (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/re3d/open-gigabot-an-open-source-gigabot-3d-printer-exp). What we say many times when we have a new customer is that the Gigabot Kit is really a tool for engineers, and that Gigabot fully assembled are for individuals who want to explore 3D printing design challenges. Gigabot is a working man's bot - simple but no simpler. The frame is built for modularity.
9) In your mind, given the wealth of 3-D printing technologies and devices out there, what makes yours stand out from the crowd?
There are over 450 unique 3D printers out on the market, we're still one of the only companies who is thinking about how to print for human scale applications while remaining industrial strength. We think that the proof is in the pudding—we're at the 2.5 year mark and have not had to take any VC investment, solely from sales and intelligent financing. This year, we are expanding our product offering and leveraging material scientists to move past our engineering leg. Our relationships with leaders in material development continues to position us to do high strength, high temp, high-tensile hardware compatibility development.
10) Given the explosion in the industry, what do you see from it in the next 5-10 years? Will it continue to become more crowded and do you think we will reach a point where it becomes commonplace for everyday consumers or businesses to have a 3-D printer in their house or office?
3D printing can solve some of the world's largest problems. Let's start locally and spread the solution to a wider span of problems. They are community tools and will be accessible as the commonplace—maybe not one in every home, but certainly within 6 degrees of separation.