Make4Covid is a new Colorado-based volunteer organization of makers working on making stuff related to the Covid crisis. They were started 26 days ago, have 2023 community volunteers, are working with 105 organizations, and have delivered 14,335 pieces of PPE as of this morning.
I’ve been in the Slack channel from inception and it’s just amazing to see what they’ve done. It’s an awesome example of the intersection of volunteers, 3D printing, makers, and a bunch of people motivated to help their fellow Coloradans in a crisis.
I’ve tried to do my part to connect them where I could, so hopefully I’ve been a little bit helpful. Amy and I – through our Anchor Point Foundation – just made a meaningful contribution.
Please consider joining us and making a donation to Make4Covid.
My friends at Formlabs have launched a Formlabs Covid-19 Network and are working on numerous 3D printable solutions for the crisis. As of this morning, 800 people have already signed up to participate.
My premise around 3D printers when we made our first investment in 2010 in MakerBot was that ultimately everyone would want a 3D printer on their desktop. I thought this was especially true in prototyping, experimentation, and emergency situations.
Given the Covid-19 pandemic, my sense is that every hospital in the world should have multiple 3D printers. New 3D designs for the crisis, ranging from conversion kits to face shields to masks to respirator parts, are appearing daily.
Makers are rallying around this. In addition to the Formlabs Support Network for COVID-19 Response, I just joined the Make4Covid community of makers working on 3D printed medical equipment for Colorado healthcare professionals.
It’s awesome to me to see all of these efforts spinning up around innovation in this crisis. If you have other 3D printer related initiatives that you are aware of, please put them in the comments.
In July 2015, I wrote about New Story asking readers to crowdfund one $6k house for a family in Haiti. At the time, Brett was only a few months into building New Story and had built less than twenty total homes. They were young and inexperienced but had a strong conviction to do things differently as a nonprofit which appealed to me.
In the past four years, New Story has funded over 2,200 homes, building 17 communities for over 11,000 people across Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia. They started out by chasing one crazy idea, and have grown nearly 100x since my original post.
They have now come up with a unique model for scaling their impact. There are over a billion people living without safe shelter. The need for safe housing is as staggering as the lack of solutions to meet the need — one traditional home at a time will never scale to the size of the problem. To even begin imagining a solution, New Story had to change their strategy.
In the past two years, they have shifted their primary focus from funding and building their own communities to pioneering solutions for the entire global social housing sector to use. The strategy is to create innovative solutions, prove their value in New Story’s work, and then share everything with others in the social housing sector.
In 2018, New Story partnered with ICON and developed the first 3D printer of homes designed to serve the families who need shelter most. This is a breakthrough technology that will cut costs, increase speed, and improve home design quality. New Story is on track to begin creating the world’s first 3D printed community of 50+ homes this summer in Latin America.
In addition to 3D printing communities, New Story created a SaaS team to help other organizations working to end global homelessness become more transparent and efficient. They’ll be sharing the tools they’ve created, including everything around 3D printing, while continuing to develop new breakthroughs.
The magic for creating this innovation-focused model has been New Stories private group of donors, the Builders. This group of about fifty families partners with New Story to fund their operating expenses and give them the license to take calculated risks through new R&D projects. In addition to me and Amy, my partner Seth Levine and his wife Greeley Sachs are members of the Builders program.
In Summer 2019, New Story is offering vision trips to see the world’s first 3D printed community. For families interested in learning more about the Builders program, email Brett Hagler.
In the super cool thing category, it’s always fun to see two companies we are investors in easily put together a demonstration of the integration of their products.
Oblong is a master of spatially interacting with 3D data on a 2D display. Looking Glass lets you interact with 3D data in a 3D display with their product (the Looking Glass.)
Together, you can move and interact with 3D images on either a 3D display or a 2D display.
Now, if we could only print this out on a 3D printer. Hmmm.
The holographic display of the future is here and you can have one on your desk for under $600.
Ever since I saw Princess Leia appealing to Obi Wan that he was her only hope when I was 11, I’ve wanted a holographic display. Movies like Minority Report and Back to the Future II (do you remember the shark hologram that ate Marty?) have consumed thousands of people’s lives over the past few decades. But until now, no one has been able to make a scalable device that would let groups of people, unaided by a VR or AR headset, see and touch a living and moving 3D world.
That’s changing today with the launch of the Looking Glass, a new type of interface that achieves that dream of the hologram we’ve been promised for so long. The Looking Glass is technically a lightfield and volumetric display hybrid, but that’s pretty nerdy-sounding. I like to just call it a holographic display.
It’s a technology at the Apple II stage, designed for the creators and hackers of the world — specifically 3D creators in this case. If you’ve ever played with a MakerBot or Form 2, have a Structure sensor in your backpack, know what volumetric video is, or have 3D creation programs like Maya, Unity, or Blender on your computer, then you should get a Looking Glass. You can holographically preview 3D prints before you print them, experiment with volumetric video recording and playback, or create entirely new and weird applications in Unity that can live inside of the Looking Glass. And when I say weird I mean it — the founders Shawn and Alex put a 3D scan of me inside and gave me some new dance moves.
Check out this video on their Kickstarter page. I’ve seen this in person and what is shown in the video is real. There aren’t any camera tricks going on – it really looks that good (actually a little better) in real life. The Looking Glass is indistinguishable from magic the way the best of technology strives to be.
I don’t know of many people who genuinely want the dystopian future of everyone in VR all day long. Ok, I do know a few. But while VR may play a role, I think most people don’t want this 1984 vision of the future, where everyone is geared up 16 hours a day.
The team behind the Looking Glass is fighting against that all-headset future with this new class of technology. Join us!
Glowforge recently launched their 3D laser printers to the public, making their product line available within 10-day delivery. As an early investor (and a huge fan) this was an incredibly gratifying moment, as Glowforge is now shipping – in volume – the product from one of the most popular pre-order campaigns in history.
We’ve been a part of Glowforge’s journey to production since even before their record-setting crowdfunding campaign. But the campaign was the moment we knew that we’d found something special: the elusive product-market fit. People really, really wanted the product. Now that it has made its way into thousands of households, we’re seeing something even better. People really, really love their Glowforge.
Of course, all the numbers in the world can’t convey just how awesome their product is until you see it in action. I’ve used mine to make everything from luggage tags to wallets. It’s an incredible shortcut on the journey from idea to having something tangible you can hold in your hands – no matter your skill level. Trust me, I’ve tested the low end of the skill level personally (e.g. me …)
I’m not the only one excited about it, either. Everyone I’ve ever demoed it for is astonished at what it can do – even my partner Moody’s thirteen-year-old son can’t get enough of it and, admittedly, uses it much more effectively than I do.
Glowforge is taking another big step toward making their printers more accessible by launching their Glowforge Plus model with the Amazon Exclusives program. I waited several years to get mine and have no regrets, but now the next generation of Glowforge owners will be eligible to get their printers delivered to their doorstep in just two days with free Prime shipping.
The move makes sense from a product standpoint, but it also falls right in line with their underlying philosophy: with the right tool, anyone can be a creator. Today, it’s as easy to purchase as it is to use.
Looking Glass, a Brooklyn-based company we recently led the Series A investment in, just released HoloPlayer One, the world’s first interactive lightfield development kit. This is a new interface that lets groups of people see and interact with floating 3D scenes without VR or AR headgear. While it’s an early release dev kit, it’s still as close to achieving the dream of the hologram shown in Blade Runner 2049 as I’ve seen.
This is relevant in my world because an investment theme we think a lot about is Human Computer Interaction. While it’s dangerous to try to predict the future, I think it’s a safe bet that in 20 years humans won’t be interacting with computers in the same way they are now. Amazon Echo is an example of one massive HCI shift that will impact our lives for years to come. Looking Glass is betting that another HCI shift will be related to how people interact with 3D content, like how a doctor will show a patient a CAT scan or how a 3D modeller will rig a Pixar character or design a rocket engine.
There are a lot of people who see this interface shift on the horizon with billions of dollars flowing into AR and VR companies evidence of this general interest. But what if there was a way to do it without the cost and constraints of a VR or AR headset.
The Looking Glass founders Shawn and Alex have been obsessed with chasing this dream since they were kids. Now they’re betting deeply against the headgear-based VR/AR trend by saying that holograms will be the next shift in human computer interaction. And they want fellow hologram hackers along for the ride.
I just got one (well, another one – we already have two HoloPlayer prototypes in the office with Structure Sensor scans of all the Foundry partners).
You can pre-order your Holoplayer dev kit here. Save $50 with code TOTHEFUTURE.
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
– from Lewis Carroll, Jabberwocky
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
I can almost see Obi-Wan swinging his lightsaber.
It delights me that we’ve invested in a company called Looking Glass who is making their own version of a vorpal sword.
Well, ok, it’s a volumetric display. But we’ll get there …
We’ve been investing in stuff around 3D since we started Foundry Group in 2007. Our first 3D-related investment was Oblong, which has reinvented the way we engage with computers (which we call infopresence) through the use of their 3D spatial operating system called g-speak and their collaboration product Mezzanine.
Well before the current generation of VR/AR/MR/XR/whateverR came about, we focused our attention and investing in the notion of a radical change in human computer interaction (HCI). We believed that in 2007 we were at the beginning of a 30+ year shift that would make the WIMP interface, which emerged in the early 1980s and was dominant in 2007, look and feel punch-card archaic in the future.
While we dig the moniker XR (for extended reality), we are much more interested in, well, reality. Our investments in 3D printing, first with MakerBot (the first successful consumer 3D printer) and now with Formlabs and Glowforge, cross the boundary between designing in 3D and making physical things. Our investment in Occipital has changed how we, and many others, think about 3D inputs and what to do with them. And life wouldn’t be much fun if you couldn’t play Rock Band in 3D, so Harmonix has you covered there.
So, why Looking Glass? After Stratasys acquired MakerBot for over $400m in 2013, we didn’t pay much attention to 3D printing for a few years. But, in 2015, when we invested in Glowforge, we realized that we had only begun to play out physical interaction with 3D. The industrial laser cutter market presented the same opportunity as the industrial 3D printer market, and hence our investment in the first 3D Laser Printer.
In 2016, when we invested in Formlabs, we had another insight that was reinforced by one of the ubiquitous Gartner Hype Cycle graphs. I think it speaks for itself.
We are now enjoying market leadership during the plateau of productivity.
One day, I was in Jeff Clavier’s office at SoftTech VC in San Francisco. He made me sit down with Shawn Frayne, the CEO of Looking Glass. Thirty minutes later, I called John Underkoffler, the CEO of Oblong, and said “John, I finally saw what you were trying to create with your holographic camera.”
And, as a bonus, the physical camera, which for over 20 years lived in the basement of my close friend Warren Katz’s house, now lives in my Carriage House in Longmont. It’s in several pieces, but that’s a detail that some day John will remedy.
It was an easy decision to invest in Looking Glass.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
In 2010, when we invested in MakerBot, the maker movement was just beginning. While 3D printing technology had been around for 30 years, there were no desktop 3D printers. The concept of using an additive process for 3D printing, where you built up a 3D object from continuous extrusion of a material such as ABS or PLA (plastics) was well understood. But this technology had not been brought to the desktop at a $2,000 price point. MakerBot did that and created an entirely new market segment within the 3D printing industry.
Last year we invested in Glowforge, a company playing into the same trend that made MakerBot successful but in an inverse way. Instead of an additive process, Glowforge uses a subtractive process to create objects. Glowforge has a product that uses lasers to perform the subtractive process. In the same way that MakerBot completely disrupted the 3D additive manufacturing industry, we believe that Glowforge can completely disrupt the 3D subtractive manufacturing industry. Last week we announced that we led a $22 million financing for Glowforge.
In 2011, at about the same time that MakerBot was starting to scale, another new company – Formlabs – was founded with the vision of also creating a desktop 3D printer. However, unlike the technology that MakerBot used which was called FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), Formlabs used a technology called SLA (Stereolithography) which has many advantages over FDM, but is more complicated to implement. As a result, it took Formlabs longer to get their product into the market.
In the fall of 2012, Formlabs did a $2.95 million Kickstarter campaign. In the early summer of 2013, around the time Stratasys acquired MakerBot, Formlabs started shipping their Form 1 printer. By the end of 2015, Formlabs shipped their Form 2 printer, which is a spectacular product.
While we knew Formlabs because of our MakerBot investment, we didn’t meet Max until after Stratasys had acquired MakerBot. I knew Max from a distance because we were both in the Netflix documentary Print the Legend. Even though there are many cringe-worthy moments, it’s a powerful story about the creation and emergence of MakerBot, Formlabs, and desktop 3D printing.
In 2014 Max hunted me down at a talk I did in Boston hosted by Katie Rae and Reed Sturtevant with my uncle Charlie about his book The Calloway Way: Results and Integrity. We talked for a little while and he made a powerful impression on me that I tucked away deep inside my brain.
This spring, Max and his cofounder Natan Linder reached out to me about having Foundry Group lead a financing. The company had only raised one major round of $19 million, led by Barry Schuler at DFJ Growth. Barry had a long history with 3D printing and he had put in a term sheet to lead the round Makerbot was considering. When Stratasys acquired the company, Barry invested in Formlabs. I’m on the board of littleBits with Barry and have loved working with him so between Barry’s encouragement, Max’s direct approach, and my love of lasers, we dug into Formlabs.
In the past two years, 3D printing has gone through the classic Gartner Hype Cycle bottoming out in the trough of disillusionment.
At this point, we think there is an enormous void for a new market leader as we move into the slope of enlightenment. We are honored to get another shot at this with our investment in Formlabs.
Oh – and lasers are super cool.