A little over a year ago, Jake Clark and John Schneider decided to go into 3D printing for two reasons; they’re both “a little geeky,” they said, and they saw it as an upcoming tech field with the potential of becoming the next personal computer. It wasn’t until a chance conversation with a sales employee for the 3D printer Makerbot, that Clark realized there was market for selling 3D printers. Schneider agreed to help, and together in early 2014 they started Fargo 3D Printing.

Fargo 3D Printing

Jake Clark, 22 (left) and John Schneider, 25 (right) present a few 3D printed items.

In the past year, both Clark and Schneider left their old jobs to pursue selling 3D printers full-time, they made two significant pivots in the business model, and are now developing two spin-offs focusing on filament manufacturing and education.

So far, Fargo 3D Printing has sold just under 50 3D printers.
Fargo 3d printing

A 3D printed cup in the printer used to make it.

Much of that time was also spent traveling nationally and internationally attending trade shows, establishing themselves as 3D printing experts that focus on custom matching the right printer to your company’s needs – because not all printers are alike, Clark said.

Locally, they work closely with universities and schools, installing the 3D printers and training teachers and students how to properly use the machines. They saw a particularly strong need for this service, which inspired their first spin-off: Triton Labs.

Fargo 3D Printing

3D printed hand.

“A lot of schools are starting to get going with 3D printing but the teachers are already overwhelmed as it is,” said Schneider. “They don’t have time to sit there and figure out all the little nuances of using the printer. They just want to get going and be up and running with the printer. That’s what Triton Labs is going to help them do.”

Triton Labs will feature online training videos, and in the future, a full curriculum. It will be coming out later this year, and will be accessible through the website tritonlabs.co.

The second spin-off, currently called 3Dom USA, will focus entirely on eco-friendly filament manufacturing. Instead of petroleum-based plastic for filament, they will be using corn-based plastic that is both biodegradable and renewable.

They are also working with C2Renew on developing a spool that is biodegradable as well – so both spool and filament will be eco-friendly. Todd Atchison, who previously worked with 3D printing at MELD workshop and is the current graphic design and production manager for Fargo 3D Printing, will be heading up this project and joining the company full-time.

Fargo 3D Printing

The Makerbot printers and their attached spools, on display at Fargo 3D Printing HQ.

Yes, all of this in the past year. Looking back at that first conversation, Schneider and Clark just smile and shake their heads. It’s been a combination of luck, the right timing, and seizing opportunities, they say.

“I didn’t know how big it was going to be, or that it’d turn into what it is now,” Clark said.

“Really the past couple of years has been, let’s try this out and see how it goes,” Schneider added. “Being in the 3D printing industry, things just…go.”

The multi-billion dollar market.

And by the looks of it, things will continue to go. The 2014 Wohler’s report – a comprehensive annual analysis of the 3D printing industry – states that the market for 3D printing grew to $3.07 billion (£1.81 billion, €2.2 billion) last year.

Fargo 3D Printing

3D printed dinosaur skull.

“Compared with an average 27 per cent growth rate over the past 26 years, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.9 per cent is the highest in 17 years,” the report states.

Although Schneider doesn’t see 3D printers as becoming a household item for another 5-10 years, he still sees similar trends between the printer and the PC. Until someone invents that “killer app,” he said, the growth will start with the businesses and then trickle down.

“It’s kind of like in the 80’s, businesses really adopted desktop computers because you had office applications, it made life easier and more efficient,” he said. “The parallel to that with 3D printing is manufacturing companies picking it up to help them prototype, because it does help them save time and generate more revenue. They’re able to try out ideas more quickly.”

Right now, household uses for 3D printers are more on the lines of, “hey let’s print a garden gnome!” Clark said. (Although personally, I wouldn’t mind having my own personal Groot…)

Fargo 3D Printing

All these little guys were 3D printed. The little green guy next to the robot is glow-in-the-dark!

Tech that transcends industries.

The remarkable thing about 3D printing, the two point out, is that it is adaptable to virtually any industry. At NDSU, they see music students 3D printing mouthpieces, an alternative to the more expensive metal ones that get cold and are easily lost. They see architecture students using it to print their models.

We published recently about two NDSU students’ design for a 3D printed alternative to the clothes hanger. And that’s just scratching the surface.

There are designs now for 3D printed houses, cars, chocolate bars, robots, and toothbrushes. Once at a trade show, the two met a man printing prototype grenades for the Batman movies.

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, they saw 3D printed apparel for Victoria’s Secret (the fashion industry will be hugely affected by 3D printing, Clark predicts). Another young man showed off his fully functional 3D printed prosthetic arm.

For Clark, one of the coolest uses of this technology is that printers can now print with sugar.

“Think of your wedding cakes, think of your bakeries,” he said. “This is the chance for someone to individually craft something and put it out there. And it’s edible, and full color! The stuff now that designers and artists and bakers can come up with – the limits are endless.”

Fargo 3d printing

A Fargo 3D Printer and a 3D printed cub that is fully flexible.

The future of Fargo 3D Printing.

As Fargo 3D Printing makes their stake in this swiftly expanding industry, Schneider and Clark hope to continue to be a service to the local community.

“We’re going to start focusing more on the service side of things. Doing more custom 3D design, more custom 3D printing,” Schneider said. “That’s something that is really starting to pick up in the Fargo area. People are starting to realize how we can help them.”

Although they can’t predict where the industry will go, or how they will have to adapt, there is one thing they know for certain. They’ll never stop being experts in the field.

“We want to be the ones that are known for knowing 3D printing inside out,” Schneider said.

Learn more: Fargo 3D Printing is holding a meet-up at their HQ on Thursday, February 19 at 5:30 PM. Register here.

Photos courtesy of Marisa Jackels.

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Marisa Jackels