Student Starts Own 3D Printing Business

By Rachel Siford and Jordan Bowman

Philip Foo walks into Melville Library carrying a large gray box. He puts it on top of the horseshoe table in the middle of the lobby and starts taking out parts of his own 3D printer. He assembles the three main pieces and takes out objects and toys that he has created from his own designs. Foo stands in the center of a group of five curious students, fielding questions about his 3D printing business from all sides.

Foo, a graduate computer science student, just started his own 3D printing business last month called Unique Prints. He tailors his business towards Stony Brook University students who wants things printed. His slogan is “If you can dream it, I can print it.”

“I always attract a big crowd when it’s on display,” Foo said. “Since the start of my business I have had about eight orders.”

The industry has seen immense growth in the past few years; a lot of the market comes from prototyping. According to Forbes Magazine the 3D printing market is expected to reach $8.6 billion by 2020.

“It is really exciting to be a part of the industry right now because it’s really moving fast,” spokeswoman from 3D printing service Shapeways Mansee Muzumdar said. “When we first started in 2008 we only printed in one material, but now we have 55 materials for customers to pick from.”

The trend of 3D printing goes beyond just business. The Next Generation Club, otherwise known as the BDSM club, held an event teaching members how to design their own sex toys with 3D printing software.

“One of our eboard members knew how to do it and it seemed cool,” President of the BDSM club Dakota Jordan said. “ Sex toys are fun and so are Computer Assisted Design programs. Also most sex toys are kind of boring.”

The Stony Brook University Innovation Lab in Harriman Hall has three 3D printers for their students to use as well. They are free to use and there are faculty and mentors to help students.

“3D printers are a great thing and we are putting printing in the hands of people who never had it before,” Director of Research Technologies for the Innovation Center David Ecker said. “The Innovation Lab has a constant flow of students and they are very excited and want to take advantage.”

Ecker also said that there are many companies that supply consumers with 3D printed goods, but the initial investment of the printers is high. UPS stores are even starting to offer 3D printing services.

“3D printing is really taking off,” Ecker said. “People can take what is in their heads and make it real. The industry is growing.”

The Innovation Center has student mentors like junior mechanical engineer major Allisha Parvez.

“I am interested in 3D printing because its revolutionary,” Parvez said. “It has the potential to positively impact everything, from manufacturing to bio-medical applications. 3D printing is rapidly improving and expanding–just the other day I read an article about a very difficult operation on a 4 year old girl with a defective heart being successful because the surgeon was able to 3d print out replicas of her heart with her exact deformation and practice on it.”

3D printing starts with a virtual design. Then the owner puts filament in, which comes in strands and it gets heated up and shaped into whatever object was designed.

“The difference between me and the Innovation Center is that I print faster,” Foo said.