LAS VEGAS -- Food. Makeup. Cars. Even an entire house. People are making some wild things using 3-D printing. But, so far, the technology hasn't really hit the mainstream.
One startup that's trying to change that is Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based AIO Robotics. The company was founded in May 2013 by Kai Chang and Jens Windau, who were later joined by Christian Siagian, who serves as vice president of software. Their goal was to develop a 3-D printer that could be accessible to everyone: small businesses, schools and households.
The result is ZEUS, an all-in-one 3-D printer/copier/scanner/fax machine. Yes, it does all of those things in one desktop device. Retailing for $2,500, the company was expecting to have around 350 units sold and several more orders in-hand by the end of 2014. AIO is hoping their showing at Eureka Park -- the startup zone here at CES -- ratchets up their momentum by several notches.
We caught up with AIO Robotics co-founder and CEO Windau to discuss the crazy world of 3-D printing. Check it out.
Entrepreneur: Where did the idea to combine a printer/copier/scanner/fax machine with 3-D printing come from?
Windau: We looked at the development of traditional 2-D printers and the transition into a multifunctional machine with an integrated 2-D scanner. That's why we believe this will be a natural transition for 3-D printers as well. Indeed it enables and simplifies lots of tasks like 3-D copying and 3-D faxing and in addition cost-efficiently utilizes one turntable for two technologies: printing and scanning.
Entrepreneur: So how exactly does this thing work?
Windau: A laser swipes above an object on a rotating plate for 360 degrees. A camera captures how this laser line changes its shape. This information allows us to calculate a 3-D model of the object.
Entrepreneur: What's the craziest thing you've created using a 3-D printer?
Windau: We recently started printing parts with movable joints, such as a cube game, a toy with rotating wheels or an elephant with moving feet.
This was a moment when we realized the power of 3-D printing that allows us to print toys, tools and objects with functional parts in one print process. In traditional manufacturing, these objects would have had to go through a longer -- often complicated -- assembly process.
Entrepreneur: How do you see the 3-D printing industry evolving in the next year or so?
Windau: We believe that the 3-D printing industry will go through two stages. First, 3-D printing services will be increasingly offered in retail stores. Eventually, once pricing goes further down and performance goes up, we will see an increasing sales demand in the household market.
Entrepreneur: If I had a ZEUS, what would I use it for every day?
Windau: ZEUS is primarily used for prototyping work in design, engineering, architecture. However, the combination of scanning and printing technology is also particularly interesting for new markets such as medicine (creation of prosthetics, for example) and dentistry (creation of surgical guides). Patients will be able to be treated in a significantly shorter time.
Entrepreneur: What's been the most exhilarating part about being a startup founder so far?
Windau: It's particularly exciting to grow as a startup into a business field that gets increasing attention through new application in any kind of field -- engineering, design, architecture, medicine, dentistry, house construction, astronautics, bakery business. And we are part of this fast development!