Manulith’s MakerOS: Faster, Cheaper 3D Printing Services from Detroit

3D printing has the potential to disrupt logistics and the way we fabricate and manufacture consumer goods. It also promises to take the basement or garage workshop to new heights. But until desktop 3D printers become more affordable and practical, where can do-it-yourself tinkerers or small businesses go to put 3D printing projects in motion?

If Mike Moceri has his way, his Detroit-based startup, Manulith, will become the go-to online destination for those seeking to design, prototype, and make 3D-printed objects. He started the company a year ago after moving back to Michigan from Chicago in order to develop his flagship software, MakerOS.

Moceri described MakerOS as the 3D printing industry’s first standard operating system for managing business activities in the cloud, designed for “maker businesses” such as 3D printing service providers, product developers, engineering firms, and contract manufacturers.

“It allows 3D printing service providers to be faster and operate cheaper,” he said.

MakerOS features a customizable quotation module, a 3D part viewer, project management tools, cloud storage, custom invoicing, and a white label option to install the service directly on a company’s website. Customers get access to their own dashboard on the MakerOS Web-based application, where they fill out a form describing what they want printed and then upload their project’s photos and files.

Moceri was in Chicago, studying at DePaul University, when he first became interested in 3D printing a few years ago. He researched the cost of a 3D printer and discovered that it was far out of his reach. So, he sourced parts online and built his own, despite having no experience with coding or hardware. For help, he said he relied on an “online community of super-geniuses.” It ended up being the best experience of his life, he added.

He began to see a business opportunity emerge in serving others like him—businesses or individuals interested in 3D printing, but without the resources to invest in their own printer. Eventually, he scored some financial backing and set up a company he compares to a “3D Kinko’s,” which was in business for about a year. That endeavor earned him enough attention from the 3D printing community to keep going, and eventually he hit on the idea of selling 3D printing design and production services to small- and mid-size businesses using the software-as-a-service model. Next, he had to figure out where his company would be permanently based.

“I heard about the cool things happening in Detroit,” he said. “It captured my imagination, what I could do here. I started looking into whether anyone was in Detroit doing something similar. Most industrial 3D printing companies have offices in Michigan—Voxeljet had just bought a place in Canton. It was kind of a wake-up call, as if 3D printing was in an arms race to come here to Detroit. There’s a strong presence of automation in the region, and that’s where I saw an opportunity.”

Moceri said his efforts to make 3D printing applicable to the manufacturing technology industry became the inspiration for MakerOS, Manulith’s software that consolidates the entire process of outsourcing 3D printing. “The typical 3D printing order process involves the provider paying an engineer to take 3D CAD files and do a manual analysis,” he explained. “Then the [price] quoting system takes a week, and then it’s two or three weeks to carry out the job. With MakerOS, we use cloud computing to do the analysis, we can do the quoting automatically, and then do the job in a day or two.”

There’s no real term for what MakerOS is, Moceri said, describing it as “customer relationship management, plus enterprise resource management, plus project management—there’s nothing quite like it in the industry.”

So far, Moceri has funded Manulith himself, and he recently added four developers to his existing staff of four. For now, he runs the business out of TechTown’s co-working space, Junction 440, and he plans to keep his company’s headquarters in Detroit as he expands Manulith’s product offerings.

Meanwhile, the company has continued to garner attention in 3D printing trade publications, and last month, Moceri pitched and exhibited at the Inside 3D Printing conference in New York, the industry’s largest annual event. So far, it’s been an exciting year for Manulith, and Moceri is optimistic about the future.

“I see MakerOS as being an integral part of contract manufacturing,” he said. “And we also have things in the pipeline that are more applicable to manufacturing as a whole rather than just 3D printing.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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