Affordable Rapid Prototyping to fast track Innovation – Interview McCor Technologies
©Frank Hughes –originally posted on pivotdublin web blog 2010
Mcor Technologies is the innovative Irish company which has made low cost 3D Rapid Prototyping possible. Two brothers have developed the Matrix 300, a rapid prototyping machine using A4 office paper which when used in conjunction with CAD can produce fully formed three dimensional models in a matter of hours rather than days.
Inspired by the rigours of aeronautical design , it has many applications in Engineering, Architecture ,Medical sectors. New applications are constantly evolving.
This innovation permits streamlining the design process, through developing fast 3D prototypes, detecting deficiencies in the design ,software coding etc , refining the design and moving swiftly to production and delivery phase.
In an age when Speed to Market is paramount, the cost effectiveness of this innovation will provide new opportunities for Ireland’s ( and other countrys’) talented designers to work efficiently with clients and industry worldwide.
The following interview was conducted with Deirdre McCormack with input from brothers Conor and Fintan McCormack.
Why a rapid 3 Dimensional Prototyping machine?
Dr Conor MacCormack and his brother Fintan had been tinkering with engines and were collectively always ‘inventing’ from childhood. It was only a matter of time before they identified something that they would go the distance with. The sons of an Engineering teacher, Conor and Fintan, were early computer enthusiasts and interest was high in all things technical and futuristic. Both boys were always fascinated with motorbikes, flying and space travel (and still are) – their early heroes being Neil Armstrong, Chuck Yeager, Joey Dunlop. And more recently interested in the success of the likes of Steve Wozniak and Padraig O’Ceidigh in the business world.
So it was with a firm interest and exposure to rapid prototyping, both founders realised that 3D printing technology was not being exploited and utilised to its full potential due to the high ‘total cost of ownership’ of the technology. And so it was that on the back of some desk research, the idea of producing an entry level 3D printer was born in 2003. Primary research, conducted in December 2004 reinforced the identified niche in the market for a low cost 3D printer. The company was incorporated in July 2004 and Conor and Fintan left their full time employment in May 2005 and set up an office in Ardee, Co Louth. Mcor’s technology mission was clear; to bring 3D printing to the masses and to make 3D printing as easy as printing on paper!
What are the key innovations of the product and your inspirations behind its design?
The concept for the Matrix was born out of the desire to make an entry level 3D printer – office paper was selected as it the most readily available sheet material and the least expensive. A water based eco-friendly adhesive was the other selected ingredient and R & D commenced on making these ingredients work in an entry-level 3D printer.
The Mcor Matrix 300 is the only 3D printer in the world that can use ordinary/used A4 paper to make 3D objects. This is the key technology breakthrough innovation that shatters the industry’s cost barrier to universal access to 3D printing and the most eco-friendly 3D printer in world.
What size is the market in Ireland, EU and elsewhere?
In 2009 all competitors combined sold 5,361 3D Printers. However, the market opportunity for 3D printing is mass. There are over 7 million CAD stations worldwide prompting the CEO of the market leading competitor, Stratasys to estimate the market potential at 500,000 per annum. In 2008 Gartner estimated the market to be 300,000 by 2012.
In order to address this untapped latent market, Mcor offers a 3D printer that is up to 60 times less expensive to own than existing technologies; this will provide access to 3D printing technology to a broader audience and rapidly increase adoption.
Describe your design process in steps from the original hunch to getting the product to market.
The original idea was conceived in December 2002. At this time Fintan was living in the US and work commenced on a part time basis by night. By December 2003 there was an alpha machine in the front room of Conor’s home; Fintan came home during the Christmas break and testing commenced on the electronics and the mechanical components together.
Full time work commenced on the machine in June 2005 – much of the R & D work was carried out on how to apply a water-based adhesive on to paper.
An article appeared about the company in the Sunday Business Post in Dec ember 2007 – this went on line, Guy Kawasaki blogged about the Matrix and that was it the company was on the map! The following October the company launched the Matrix at the TCT Exhibition in the UK; In the week of the launch the Mcor website received over 2 million hits and since then Mcor has received enquiries from around the world including companies such as Dyson, Nintendo, Nickelodeon, Rock Star Games, Boeing, IBM, Cambridge, Stanford, John Deere, Frog Design, Siemens, Panasonic, MIT and Guys Hospital to name just a few.
What were the founders’ key skills and biggest challenges along the way?
Dr Conor MacCormack
Co-founder & CEO
As former site manager for a 5th Framework European project with Airbus and principal investigator with SPS Technologies in the US in the aerospace sector, the company CEO, Dr. MacCormack has a blend of general management and project management experience and, with a PhD in mechanical engineering, has in-depth experience in the CAD/3D printing field. He has worked as a consultant with companies such as Boston Scientific, ABS Pumps, Aisle Master, Mantis Cranes, Tanco Autowrap, Keenan Systems and Dromone Engineering.
Conor has been CEO of Mcor Technologies since 2007, and in that time the company has ran a very lean operation, winning two national competitions, launched a world beating product and generated worldwide demand.
Co-founder & CTO
Fintan MacCormack leads the company’s technical development as Chief Technical Officer. A qualified aircraft mechanic and graduate from the prestigious TempleUniversity in the US in electrical engineering, Fintan has accumulated a vast amount of experience in control systems and machine software development with the world’s leader in wire bonding machines in the semi-conductor industry Kulicke and Soffa Industries. Kulicke and Soffa supply machines to the likes of Intel, Lexmark, AMD and NVIDIA. Fintan also worked with RCA in PrincetonNJ, and British Aerospace as a fabricator on the Harrier Fighter Aircraft.
- Setting up a manufacturing company in Ireland – with so little high tech manufacturing going on, there is little understanding of what is involved.
- Bootstrapping and keeping the business alive until the machine was ready
Who was most helpful in helping you to get the company and concept off the ground? ( state ,3rd level or individuals)
The company was self-funded up until June 2009 – at this stage Mcor received private investment and EnterpriseIreland also invested in the company. Prior to this Mcor received assistance from the Louth County Enterprise Board who provided employment grants.
Mcor have also been fortunate to have met some individuals who would have provided advice at different stages of the company’s development. For Example, as part of the ‘The Business’ radio show on RTE, Mcor was appointed Martin Murphy, MD HP Ireland as a mentor in March 2009.
If you were to do some things differently to get to where you are now what might these be?
Our progress was inhibited by lack of resources so if funding had been sought earlier our milestones may have been achieved at greater speed.
What does being Irish mean in the international marketplace for your type of product?
Mcor is the only Irish manufacturer of rapid prototyping technology – this is a very niche market and the main competitors are 2 large American companies. There is pride in being a small company, coming from a small place competing with such large companies.
Mcor was nominated for a World Technology Award in July 2009 in the category corporate hardware. Mcor was runner up to none other than Amazon (for the kindle reader). Mcor was the only rapid prototyping company represented and the only Irish company at the event.
Describe the characteristics and personality traits of the type of people you would like to build out your company with?
Mcor’s employees really need to share Mcor’s vision. They need to be focused and driven to achieve the goals of the company enjoying the challenges presented along the way.
Because Mcor have outsourced the manufacturing of the product Mcor will build a substantial R & D centre in Ireland with a variety of different engineers.
Mcor is really about producing innovative products – unfettered innovation!
Mcor Technologies http://www.mcortechnologies.com/
Rapid Prototyping http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_prototyping
Bell X-1 Image with Chuck Yeager pilot www.flickr.com
Harrier Vertical Take Off and Landing Image http://juliantheaviator.files.wordpress.com