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Expert Interview: Zack Monniger, DeltaMaker

1)When was DeltaMaker formed and why?

Conceptually, the idea to build an "elegant" 3D printer dates back about a year. The DeltaMaker prototype as you saw it on Kickstarter was developed over the last half of last year.

There are a lot of really great kits available, but getting 3D printers into the hands of as many people as possible requires the product to be more accessible. We want early technology adopters to get in on 3D printing, and we want to give them a compelling product to that.

2)What do you think is the most unique feature of your DeltaMaker printer? What types of materials are compatible with it and how does it work?

The delta aspect makes it different than most of the other printers available, but we really believe the overall aesthetic sets it apart right now. When you see good product design, it looks like the obvious solution.

As far as materials go, it’s on par with with all of the other extrusion based machines. Materials are evolving quickly and there’s some new stuff on the horizon people are playing with. We plan to stay on the cutting edge and support materials that make the experience better for the consumer. We will likely focus the support (tutorials, sample g-code files, etc) on one material (PLA), but the printer will be capable of extruding a number of materials that can be purchased at 1.75mm diameter for users who want to experiment.

3)Who is this type of 3-D printer aimed at? Is it customizable at this point or is there only one type of build?

The market is growing and changing fast. We want this printer to appeal to a broad cross section of the market. We aren't selling kits, so we are looking for people who want to make stuff on a 3D printer, but don't want to have to build the printer.

Industrious users will no doubt take it apart and make changes. From our side, we’re focusing on the Kickstarter commitments so we're pretty focused on that single configuration. In the end, our design is very scalable and adaptable. We will be able to offer different size printers and adapt to different printing technology.

4)What roles have each of you played in the creation of this model and how long did it take to design?

Of course, the design never ends. One of the challenges with moving forward with Kickstarter is it forces us to freeze the design and get some units out in the wild. It also enables us to do some things manufacturing wise that would have been financially challenging without a large influx of cash.

Everyone's role is unique. Bootstrapping a 3D printer into existence and running a successful Kickstarter campaign is a pretty big project, but it's small compared to transitioning the product to manufacture and everything that goes along with that. Bob is basically our chief technical / systems / product guy; Craig backs up Bob on the electrical and systems side and also handles our web stuff; Robin tries to herd the cats and is basically in a project management role to keep us on task; I’ve got the mechanical aspects of optimizing our designs for manufacture and getting it all down on paper. I also get to be the guy who does interviews :)

5)Where do you see DeltaMaker and 3-D printing going in the next 5-10 years?

Favorite question. I’ve been exposed to 3D printing since it’s former life know as “rapid prototyping”. As a mechanical engineer, I used it as a tool for design verification and demonstration. I always looked forward to the day when there would be desktop grade prototyping machines that engineers could have near their desk. Fast forward 10 years later, and that day has arrived. I dom’t think we are at a point where consumer prices will push lower and lower. Instead, I think we’re more likely to see prices remain relatively flat for top-end products while they get faster, more reliable, add features, and become easier to use. This will keep the price for next year’s model at (or in some cases above) the previous year&rsquos model.

I suspect we are closer to 20 years out before the consumer hardware gets more commoditized, where something like an ink-jet printer is today.

So from that end, there’s so much room for hardware innovation in this space over the next several years. In the end, there is some novelty aspects to 3D printing and the hype is starting to build (especially with the President mentioning the topic in his State of the Union). There’s going to be some letdown as consumers become fully educated on what the technology is capable of and what it isn’t. Figuring out how to bridge that chasm to early adopters, where they have a real and compelling use case with products that “just work” is critical. That is the challenge that personal 3D printing faces moving forward.


DeltaMaker Founder Bios:

Bob Houston
B.S Computer Engineering, University of Florida
Bob has a diverse background in software engineering, robotics, and product design. He enthusiastically supports the creation of new products, and is currently providing engineering and business consulting services for product design teams, and startup companies. His career includes working as an engineer for Raytheon and IBM, where he supported a variety of projects in the defense/aerospace, and commercial software industries. Bob has a deep appreciation of great product design, and is excited by the elegant design of the DeltaMaker.

Robin Lopez
B.S. Aerospace Engineering, Auburn University
Robin is a jack-of-all-trades, and master of none. Robin began his career with Lockheed Martin as a systems engineer and later a propulsion engineer. Finding the corporate job option too restrictive, he chose to head down an entrepreneurial path. As both a licensed general contractor and a registered patent agent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Robin has owned and operated three separate construction companies as well as a boutique patent firm. Robin is highly motivated to work on challenging design projects that fuel his passion for the creative process.

Zack Monninger
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Central Florida
Master of Business Administration, University of Central Florida

Zack has a diverse background in engineering, product design, and business. As a mechanical design engineer in the defense industry, working for Lockheed Martin and FLIR systems, Zack has worked on long range cruise missiles, high energy laser systems, and gimbal systems among others. During that time, he also pursued a graduate degree in business. Aside from supporting the DeltaMaker project, he is also the partner in a small business and does freelance mechanical engineering design work with SolidWorks as his tool of choice.

Craig Rettew
B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of Central Florida
Craig has extensive knowledge of complex circuit design, PCB layout and design, as well as system-level design. By day, Craig works as an electrical design engineer at FLIR Systems and by night he dedicates his time to the DeltaMaker and web design. His passion for efficiency and precision while “keeping it simple”drives him to have fantastic results.