Meet the future of manufacturing: A look inside Solidoodle’s 3D printing factory

When you think of a factory that manufactures goods, you might imagine a huge space filled with oversized machines, all working away in an assembly line. That’s not the case for production line at Solidoodle’s Carroll Gardens factory in Brooklyn, New York.

Although the workshop is about as large as a medium-sized loft apartment, the actual manufacturing area only takes up a space that’s about 8 feet across and 12 feet high. In this small space, there are 23 3D printers set up on two heavy-duty metal shelving units—all whirring away as they create intricate objects out of hot, extruded plastic.

Solidoodle CEO Sam Cervantes said that all these machines are hooked up to a single controller computer. What’s even more impressive is that these machines have been working non-stop for more than a year, printing parts to make even more Solidoodle machines.

This is the sort of manufacturing future that Sam Cervantes imagines for the entire world. But before you’re inner luddite starts shouting “down with the machine,” these devices aren't necessarily replacing humans: The rest of the space is filled with workers that assemble these Solidoodle 3D printers.

Putting together the extruding heads.

Aside from a machined frame and a couple of 3D-printed parts, practically every piece of the printer is put together by human hands—from the extruding head to the controller board on the back. All these machines are made to order by hand right here in Brooklyn—that’s’ something you can’t say about a lot of factories located anywhere in America.

Raffaele Stuparitz, the shop’s Consumer Manager and self-proclaimed “renaissance man,” told me that the store started up in September 2011 with just four workers. Since then, the factory has grown to a workforce of 60 employees with over 4000 printers shipped out.

On Thursday, Solidoodle held a press conference to announce its ambitious plans to spread globally. The company announced that its first international 3D printing factory will open this summer in Moscow. Meanwhile, a partnership with the Brazilian company Linotech 3D will mark Solidoodle’s first official distributor outside of the US. There are also plans to expand to other markets including Canada, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

On the domestic front, Solidoodle has partnered with Ensemble to launch a Manhattan-based 3D Pavilion located in Bryant Park. The space, located at 1150 6thAvenue, 6th floor, will be used as a co-working space to help entrepreneurs start their businesses.

Currently Solidoodle sells two 3D printers, including the super-affordable $500 Solidoodle 2. There’s also the larger third-generation Solidoodle for $800, which bumps up the build area by two inches on all sides for eight-square-inch prints. Both printers can produce ABS plastic creations—an IPA plastic printing medium is coming soon—that can print at an extremely fine resolution, with layers that measure a tenth of a millimeter thick.

Three generations of Solidoodle 3D printing machines.

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