The Road So Far to Evolve3D
The ability to make anything from your home is an incredible power... almost a superpower.
The First Taste
I got my first taste of 3D Printing during Christmas of 2015. My Uncle Dave got himself a Lulzbot, which he used for figurines and board game customization. This machine, which sat on his desk, was able to make anything from almost nothing.
Immediately, I encountered problems.
Cost, Complexity, Reliability
The issue of Cost:
- A simple, reliable printer is nullified continuously by the "latest and greatest" model. I found it difficult to justify buying a thousand dollar machine, just for it to be irrelevant in a couple of years.
The issue of Reliability:
- A solution to cost, I thought, would be a cheaper machine. You can see many other people went this route by searching "3D Printing issues" on google. It is so bad people tend to say, "failure is just part of the 3D printing experience."
The issue of Complexity:
- The final issue was complexity. Expensive printers could cut out some of the complexity, while cheaper printers basically require you to rebuild them from the ground up.
My Original Solution
Being a "wanna-be tinkerer," with too much time, I chose to go the least expensive, most complex route of buying a machine that I'd tear down and rebuild. I also bought a laser, thinking that as I rebuilt the machine, I'd rewire it to be compatible as a laser engraver. I don't recommend this route, at first it sounds fun, like me, you may even "romanticize" it within your head as an adventure. In reality, it's hours upon hours of just trying to get the machine to work, only to finally succeed and then have it stop working for a mysterious reason the next day.
That being said, I eventually got things up and running. I rewired a PWM Fan port to power my laser diode then duck-taped the laser to the extruder head. It's the summer of 2019, and I live with five other college guys; the machine's sole purpose became engraving Juuls.
I was excited, hours of my time were finally paying off, and my roommates were finally giving me infamous "social validation," I even started to make a little bit of money. Things were looking great, then the duct tape failed, and the laser shot around the apartment. I was no longer cool.
Returning to The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina
A few months go by, and we return to school. It's fall of 2019, and I'm a Junior at The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina. I bring the machine, laser, and all (reduct-taped, of course), and start showing my friends. The next day we go to a "welcome back" meeting where the Commandant (a former Navy Seal Captain) informs us that to set off the fire alarm will result in severe punishment (possibly expulsion) and a personal meeting with him. I think he intended to stop cadets from vaping in the barracks, and he probably had no idea about my 3D-printer-laser-engraving-duck-tape-contraption, but regardless, I covered my room's fire alarm that night.
The next day I remove the duck-taped laser from the machine, placing it into a box for safe-keeping, then take it to the campus library and ask to keep it in the school's Makerspace.
I had been thinking about a universal adapter, which could interchange between 3D Printing and Laser Engraving when I saw a video from "Proper Printing." This guy is basically whom I want to become when I get older, and I immediately prepared my machine with his adapter. It worked flawlessly, no more duct tape.
The Introduction to Business
A friend of mine, Kyle Allen, a business major at the time, saw what I had been up to and told me, "You should make that into a business and join the school's business bowl," so I did, and together we joined our school's business bowl. I always knew I wanted to own my own business, and I had thought about turning this project into a business, but this was a push that made me take it a little more seriously.
Kyle also introduced me to Ted Feinning, a successful business owner who worked on campus in Krause Center for Leadership. I pitched the idea to Ted (pretty poorly, I might add, this was the first time I ever pitched, and I went in half-prepared, but regardless), he loved the idea. His belief in the concept is another huge reason why I decided to begin pursuing this business.
Shortly after, Kyle signs us up for a local Charleston "Start-up weekend" where you work for an entire weekend, turning an idea into a viable business. We called multiple business owners, validating our idea and gathering data. This was my first exposure to the world of business/entrepreneurship, and this is where I first heard terms such as "ROI" and "Validation."
The Charleston Harbor Business Accelerator
Cambrian Research becomes Evolve3D
A few weeks later, we hear about "The Charleston Harbor Business Accelerator." I gather a small team, consisting of Kyle Allen, Jeremiah Stockdale, and Ethan Warner, and we apply for the accelerator. Later that night, I was emailed and told we had to be an actual business to be accepted, so I filed for an LLC and sent them a screenshot proving our existence.
We were accepted on the condition we would attend all of the weekly classes, Tuesday and Thursday.
There were a few issues, however.
1. I was in college, so I had classes and 2. We have "Cadet Duties" during those Tuesday/Thursday times.
I said yes anyway and then set to figure out how I'd get out of my previous responsibilities. Getting out of class time was easy; the professors were understanding and allowed me to switch to their other classes. The challenging part was getting out of cadet duties, which I managed by putting together a PowerPoint presentation and presenting it to the Assitant Commandant for Discipline (the guy who reviews/usually enhances cadet punishments.) Luckily, he was impressed, and he approved not only my leave but also Ethan and Kyle's leave (who were both cadets at the time.)
Originally our name was "Cambrian Research," referencing the Cambrian Explosion within evolution. The name compares the split of all significant animal species on earth 541 million years ago to 3D Printing, Laser Engraving, CNC Milling on one machine. I know pretty nerdy, but I thought it was cool, and so did a couple of other people. We quickly realized many people had no idea/couldn't even pronounce "Cambrian"; thus, the name "Evolve3D - Creating the Evolution of the 3D Printer" was born.
This "boot camp" taught us the fundamentals of business, directly from successful business owners' mouths. We studied the market, studied what other 3D Printing companies were doing, how they were successful, and what issues they were failing to address. Two mentors, Tim Woodland and Wayne Outlaw chose to work with us and donated their time to our success.
About ten months were dedicated simply to learning business fundamentals, market research, writing business plans, and practice pitching. I've found business to be like most things, as soon as you start to learn more about it, you realize you actually know almost nothing at all, but regardless, you need to push onward and fail fast. We also had countless mentors by this time, offering advice/guidance.
Toward the end of the school year, we begin the serious development of our product.
The Fundamental Goal?: A Machine Which Constantly Evolves
- It saves you money while keeping you up to date with the latest and greatest technology
- It enables you to try much more than just 3D Printing
- It lowers complexity, as you will need only to learn how one machine works, instead of multiple.
COVID-19 and Failure.
This is also about the time COVID-19 began shutting everything down. We were sent home from school early, and I set up my parent's garage. My life consisted of the Accelerator, the Business Bowl, Preparing the product, and my classes.
At this point, our school's business bowl is coming to an end. We made it to the final round, competing for the grand prize of $10,000. Like quite a few others, we thought, "there's no way we can lose this competition," but alas, we lost. To say this was a "heavy blow" is an understatement. Countless hours of work, every night in the library, then the garage, studying business, writing/rewriting the business plan, working/reworking financial predictions, not going out on weekends, straining personal relationships for months, and still lost. I didn't sleep for days following, but ironically, I think we still won. The lesson learned from that failure is worth a lot more than $10,000.
Going into the summer, of 2020, despite the Business Bowl failure, I doubled down. Deciding to go full time, nothing else, on this business, I dropped out of school. By this time, Evolve3D consisted of only Ethan Warner and myself. We found an initial investment and a tremendous amount of support within the family.
Together, we spent months designing the machine, sourcing high-quality components, programming the machine, wiring the machine, and testing to ensure a high-quality product, which can truly Evolve. Today the machine is market-ready and is genuinely the best machine out there.
The Result? Introducing Eve:
Eve is truly the Evolution of the 3D Printer
Eve is the first of her kind and dawns the Eve of a new era (hence the name)
Eve is open-source and easily customizable with its universal adapter, enabling it to truly "Evolve," saving you thousands of dollars while keeping you up-to-date with the latest and greatest technology.
Eve is easy to use; once set up, it is merely two clicks, and you will have started a print.
Eve is reliable by identifying the height of 64 points on the build surface and automatically adjusting the size while printing.
Eve also utilizes various other perks, such as a genuine 32bit Duet3D board with super quiet TMC2660 stepper drivers with up to 256 micro-stepping, a dedicated wifi module enabling control from both PC, tablet, or smartphone. Eve has a build area of approximately 350mm (X) by 300mm (Y) by 300 (Z), as well as a bunch of other perks.
The ability to make anything from your home is an incredible power... almost a superpower, now realized by Evolve3D's Eve.
Thanks for reading. I hope to hear from you soon.
-Benjamin Scott, Founder/CEO Evolve3D