Voodoo Manufacturing is one of a few companies aiming to make Brooklyn again a center of manufacturing. Three-dimensional manufacturing, in this case.
The company was started by alumni of MakerBot, the Brooklyn 3D-printing giant. Cofounder Max Friefeld and three cofounders previously worked at MakerBot, and spun off from the company in June to start Voodoo.
The Voodoo factory, which is on Morgan Avenue, in Bushwick, contains 127 MakerBot Replicator 2Xs, which can churn out hundreds of printed copies of objects in a day. The company aims to fit in the market between someone who needs something printed out from a desktop printer to a customer who would otherwise pay for injection molding.
One of the company’s first jobs was with Viacom, which needed 300 Nickelodeon keychains for an event. Instead of ordering 20,000 to be done by injection molding and stored somewhere, Viacom was able to get the keychains printed in Brooklyn and ready the next day.
Another early relationship Voodoo has is with Brooklyn camping gear startup BioLite, which has been featured here before. Someone at BioLite heard about Voodoo and reached out. Now BioLite sends over files to prototype and Voodoo prints them out. Brooklyn’s startup ecosystem in action.
“We’re trying to use digital fabrication technology as a way to reduce startup costs in manufacturing so you don’t have to drop a few thousand dollars to have something made,” Friefeld explained in an interview. “We want to make manufacturing just stupid simple.”
Friefeld, though he’s only in his mid-20s, has a long history with 3D printing. In high school in Southern California he had access to a 3D printer, which he used to print parts for robots he was working on.
“It seemed like this magical technology that was available only to engineers, and we wanted to make it available to everyone,” he said.
Friefeld went to Harvey Mudd College, located about an hour from his home, in the Pomona Valley. While at Harvey Mudd, Friefeld and a group of friends started a 3D-printing software design company called Layer By Layer. In 2013, Layer By Layer was accepted into Y Combinator, and then acquired by MakerBot.
“That was a whirlwind summer,” Friefeld said. “Oh my God, did we build products. Shortly after we started talking to MakerBot about an acquisition. It’s been a wild ride, I can tell you that.”
Friefeld chose to locate the Voodoo factory in Brooklyn because it’s where they live, because it’s cheaper than Manhattan and for the creative people here.
“We didn’t want to go to New Jersey and we’re just surrounded by all these cool people,” he explained. “Everyone in our building is an artist or hacking on something, so it just seemed like the right area for what we’re doing.”
Friefeld is excited about the future, and sees the benefits of his service, but he seems to have a critical eye as well. The 3D printing revolution has not blossomed as some people predicted years ago. For all its promise, MakerBot laid off about a fifth of its workforce in April.
“3D printing as an industry has had a lot of hype,” Friefeld said. “I think the next 10 years is going to be 3D printing realizing a lot of that hype.”
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