A great idea is never enough to take an entrepreneurial concept out of the garage and into the marketplace.

Budding entrepreneurs are always faced with some critical hurdles to overcome on their way to building a viable, sustainable business: money, tools, infrastructure and experience are at a premium, and it's often difficult to pull those threads together in a way that advances the cause. 

GIGTANK wants to make that path easier to follow for 3D printing startups.

A summer-long accelerator and funding program for aspiring 3D printing entrepreneurs set in Chattanooga, TN., GIGTANK is intent on "finding innovative people from diverse backgrounds who want to move the 3D printing industry forward."

And what GIGTANK is offering is very attractive indeed.

For starters, the program boasts access to a metro-wide fiber optic network with ultra-fast broadband, the opportunity to collaborate with conventional manufacturers to develop 3D printing pilot programs and access to conventional manufacturing facilities, experts and equipment.

If a proposal meets the criteria, the lucky applicants will have access to an expansive range of 3D printing resources from leading technologists and experts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Oak Ridge, TN. The program also includes $15,000 in initial seed funding (for a 5 percent stake in the company) and opportunities to attract additional investment capital from a large pool of investors.

The chosen few will also be able to take advantage of free housing for the duration of the summer program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and collaborative workspace in the heart of the city.

And the benefits don't end there. If an idea is adjudged to have the proper potential, the chosen applicants will also have a chance to participate in a cross-country investment tour of such entrepreneurial funding hotspots as Silicon Valley and New York City. The program culminates in a nationally-promoted Demo Day, where participants present their progress to a strategic audience of investors, partners and media.

An initiative in conjunction with The Company Lab (CO.LAB), the Additive Manufacturing program takes place this summer between May and August and is hosted by CO.LAB.

Applications for the 2014 accelerator are open now and close on March 14, 2014.

Mike Bradshaw

"Chattanooga is a hub for manufacturing and home to the nation's most advanced smart grid network," said Mike Bradshaw, executive director of CO.LAB. "For startups in the healthcare industry, Chattanooga's broadband opens new territory for developing next-generation telemedicine and medical imagery applications. For those exploring applications in advanced manufacturing and smart grid technologies, we offer a robust network of experts and industry contacts. This is an especially valuable resource to startups looking to pilot new business applications in active, networked industry settings."

Bradshaw says that the addition of the Additive Manufacturing track represents the nation's first startup accelerator to offer a program focused on launching 3D printing applications in the conventional manufacturing space.

He also says the ideal candidates for the program are members of the "Maker Movement" who want access to an industrial manufacturing base, experienced manufacturers who see an opportunity to improve an existing process and software developers and digital manufacturers who are working on 3D modeling software improvements, 3D modeling file format improvements, machine-to-machine communications, distributed manufacturing researchers and anyone working in online markets for mass customized consumer goods and arts and crafts.

If you're considering applying as a startup, Bradshaw says the program offers opportunities to product designers, materials developers, micro-manufacturers and ideas from the medical, health and wellness technologies spheres.

If you want to apply for inclusion in the GIGTANK the program, you can do that clicking here.