By Margaret Jackson | Apr 17, 2023
Imagine That 3D wants to bring affordable 3D printers to the world.
The company sells printers that are easy to set up and use, whether someone is using one of its kits or pre-built units. The cost for its printers ranges from $300 for everyday consumers up to several hundred thousand dollars for commercial uses, says Zach Hagen, the company's president.
But the company didn't stop at selling the machines. It wanted to create a community where people can make, buy and sell their own products. A few years after the company's founding, it opened a storefront, which is complemented by a makerspace where customers can use the Imagine That 3D's equipment.
"The storefront is design, service, repairs, and selling consumables," says Hagen. "We have a showroom where people can see the printers before they purchase them."
Imagine That 3D bills itself as a design community for discovering, making and sharing 3D printable things. "We believe that everyone should be encouraged to create and remix 3D things, no matter their technical expertise or previous experience," the company's website states. "We are proud to bring web-based tools to make 3D modeling and 3D printing more accessible to all."
The company also offers 3D printing services for people who have an idea but don't want to make it themselves. All they have to do is send the company a picture of their sketch on a napkin, in a CAD file or anything in between, and its designers will provide guidance to make the product look and function better.
Many customers' ideas can be rendered in an hour or two and the company 3D prints the object.
Imagine That 3D is poised to capitalize on a rapidly growing market. The global 3D printing market size was valued at $16.75 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.3 percent from 2023 to 2030, according to a report from Grand View Research. The technology has applications in various industries, including healthcare, automotive and aerospace and defense, which are expected to drive growth in the market.
The company is busier at some times of the year than it is during others. During the holidays, for example, people want to purchase 3D printers, while in the summer, lots of people have Kickstarter projects they want to get off the ground.
Hagen has discovered that what people need most is education, so the company has adjusted its hours to accommodate teaching people how to use the technology and giving them hands-on experience with the machines.
Challenges: Because the industry is still relatively new, educating consumers is the biggest challenge facing Imagine That 3D. "Consumers want to buy and make their own stuff," Hagen says. "People see it online and they think it's instant. They don't understand the nuances behind it and the preparation that goes into the print process."
Opportunities: Imagine That 3D plans to produce its own products to sell to consumers. It's also starting a recycling program to buy back the spools used for 3D printing so it doesn't have to purchase them from China.
Needs: Imagine That 3D is looking for employees who have a passion for 3D printing and understand the technology. The company partners with a local university to train students on the technology in exchange for hosting its equipment, but eventually, it will need to find its own space.