"Imported from Indiana", these delta-style printers combine the best elements of maker-era technology and old-school manufacturing know-how.
|SeeMeCNC's delta-style printers, and nearly all of the components that go into them, are manufactured by hard-working Hoosiers in the company's Goshen, Indiana plant|
SeeMeCNC is a bit of an anomaly in the 3D printer industry. Unlike the heavily-funded high-tech companies who build the high-dollar industrial-grade printers or the edgy, Kickstarter-funded operations which made the technology affordable, the company's origins lie in a successful old-school machine shop and plastics manufacturing operation based in scenic Goshen, Indiana.
Like the company which makes them, SeeMeCNC's Rostok printer kits and factory-built ORION series of 3D printers occupy their own unique niche within the Maker technology ecosystem. For one thing, their printers are based on a so-called delta coordinate system, instead of the Cartesian-style "X/Y plotter-on-steroids" architecture used by most of today's machines. As a result, the printer's triangulated print head positioning mechanism gives it a rather unusual appearance – sort of a cross between an oil derrick and one of the extraterrestrial "tripods" from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. And even a casual glance at the printers' sturdy construction and liberal use of high-precision injection-molded components tells you that whoever designed them has a couple of decade's worth of experience in machine design and high-volume manufacturing.
One of those folks is Steve Wygant, a double-degreed engineer who founded Blackpoint Engineering, SeeMeCNC's parent company, back in 1996. Before launching its 3D printer products in 2011, Steve's operation supplemented the income from its custom molding and die-making business by manufacturing everything from medical instruments to paintball related parts.
|Family portrait: John "Oly" Olafson (left) and Steve "PartDaddy" Wygant (right) with three ORION 3D Printers in their final stages of assembly.|
After meeting Steve (a.k.a. "PartDaddy") and his partner, John "Oly" Olafson at the NY maker Faire, I was curious about what led to the company's decision to enter the 3D printer market and I wanted to understand more about their printer's unique design:
3DPW: So, Steve, from a quick Google search on SeeMeCNC, it appears to be a division of Blackstone Engineering, an old-school manufacturing operation that specializes in machining and injection molding. No offense meant, but you're not the sort of folks I'd expect to find at a Maker Faire. So how'd you end up in the 3D printer business?
Steve Wygant - SeeMeCNC: Blackpoint Engineering, LLC, the company I started in '96, is "d/b/a" (doing business as) under the name SeeMeCNC. Like many machine shops, we've made parts for other companies most of the time. A couple years ago, our machine shop orders slowed down and I was faced with possibly laying off employees who had been with our company for many years. Rather than do that, I thought I'd see if there was any way to build up a business that was involved with some aspect of rapid prototyping, an area I'd been very interested in for quite awhile. When I called a meeting to discuss our options, it was decided that we would build a 3D printer. So after over 15 years of operating as a machine shop, we made the transition to manufacturing our own 3D printer just two years ago.
3DPW: Did you experiment with other types of printers before you chose to make a delta-type machine?
Steve Wygant: Yes, the first printer we made was called the H-1. It was based on the RepRap Huxley 3D printer.
3DPW: I guess that explains why your on-line store offers parts for RepRap-style machines as well as for your current line of delta coordinate printers.
Steve Wygant: The H-1 was our starting platform because many people love the design. We added value to the end user by lowering the cost through injection molding. However, there are a LOT of nuts and bolts. We provide many standard parts too, like motors and pulleys, and enjoy supporting the community who helped us along the way!
3DPW: How much did the RepRap project's design influence the evolutionary path that got you to your present architecture?
Steve Wygant: Yes, the RepRap project is an important part of why we become who we are. We learned a lot from that project, much of which is what led us to choose the delta architecture as our next printer platform in September, 2012.