Ex-MakerBot Crew Creates Voodoo Manufacturing to Go Beyond 3D Printing

Taking a few lessons learned before and during their time at MakerBot, the founders of Brooklyn-based Voodoo Manufacturing are trying to prove they can turn 3D printing and related services into a scalable business.

On Tuesday, Voodoo unveiled its printing outflow service, which lets businesses and makers upload files and get an instant quote on producing volume orders up to 10,000 units.

The company uses 127 MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printers in its factory. The printers are set up to create rapid prototypes, small batches, and larger orders. So far Voodoo has raised some $300,000 from private investors.

This idea has some shades of the business model seen at New York-based Shapeways, which 3D prints items to consumers ordered through its Web portal. But where Shapeways produces objects that people purchase from designers, Voodoo is a business-to-business service, says CEO Max Friefeld.

He and his fellow co-founders worked at MakerBot, and saw what they believed was an opportunity to build a manufacturing company that went beyond 3D printing.  Friefeld says Voodoo is independent, but has a relationship with MakerBot to fulfill exclusive orders.

It is a return to entrepreneurship for some of Voodoo’s founders. Three of the four previously worked together at Layer By Layer, a Y Combinator alum founded in 2012. Layer by Layer made software to make design more accessible for people with 3D printers. The team sold Layer by Layer to MakerBot in 2014, which Friefeld says helped MakerBot execute partnerships with such brands as Hello Kitty and Sesame Street, making items based on their properties.

While at MakerBot, the team developed the innovation center management software platform for operating clusters of 3D printers, he says. “This is the core of what became Voodoo,” Friefeld says.

For instance, the 127 printers in Voodoo’s factory are all networked via USB and Ethernet into a centralized control center for monitoring their statuses. “We can run all of the printers with just one and a half people,” he says.

Wanting to take their ideas out on their own, the founders of Voodoo spun out of MakerBot in June, Friefeld says, after realizing people who created prototypes at home with 3D printers might be looking for ways to scale up production of their creations. The options available on the market were expensive, by his reckoning. Voodoo wants to help those folks create their first 10,000 products, he says, without having to figure out injection molding processes. “There are small-scale manufacturing options that are very expensive once you get passed the first one you are making at home at your desk,” Friefeld says.

He described Voodoo as an affordable option to cover the gap between prototypes and producing the first 10,000 pieces. For example, if a company runs a successful crowdfunding campaign and needs to produce a limited run of units, they might use Voodoo.

Higher profile clientele have turned to the Voodoo team. Back in the spring, Viacom used the company to produce custom keychains for an event for Nickelodeon and MTV. “We only needed to make 300 of each and realistically there was no other way to get these made,” Friefeld says. Voodoo also worked with Intel to produce a 3D-printed dress for Fashion Week.

They may be separate companies, but Voodoo has a partnership with MakerBot for exclusive deals on filaments and future hardware for 3D printing, he says. When some customers reach out to MakerBot for 3D printing services, Voodoo gets the work, Friefeld says. “We’re like a service provider to them.”

Looking ahead, Voodoo’s team plans to use digital fabrication technology, like 3D printing, to drive manufacturing costs for startups as close to zero as possible. “We think this is going to speed up innovation and product development in a lot of ways,” he says.

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