Voodoo Manufacturing announced this week it would begin 3D printing with a new kind of material, thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU.
If that’s a mouthful, well, it’s not so complicated. TPU is a bit like synthetic rubber, but, unlike rubber it doesn’t really get worn down over time, and it’s not as gummy, either, said Voodoo Manufacturing cofounder Max Freifeld.
“We’ve been doing TPU on a one-off basis for the last few months on individual projects,” he said in an interview Monday. “The biggest thing, the reason we’re announcing it now is … we didn’t want to release the material until we could guarantee we could do 10,000 parts in two weeks or less.”
That’s a lot of parts. It also implies a lot of demand, which hasn’t always been the case for 3D printing. The knock on the industry is that you can print little plastic things, prototype new ideas, andddddddddd … well, that’s about it. But Friefeld says the addition of TPU to the roster is going to make a difference. They’re only adding the material, he said, because there already was a demand for it. Hinges, waterproofing, dressmaking, companies wanted more than just the rigid plastic more frequently used in 3D printing.
Of course, Voodoo’s 127 MakerBot 3D printers weren’t necessarily constructed for rubbery stuff to come out of them.
“When we did our first TPU project we ran into a lot of issues with clogging,” Friefeld said. “It did take some modification work for us be able to print TPU reliably.”
But now they’re good to go. And, he says, they’re going.
In a time when fellow 3D printers MakerBot had to shutter its Brooklyn factory and move its manufacturing to China, Voodoo is actually growing — and off revenue rather than funding rounds.
“We’re adding employees, printers, all of it,” Friefeld, the young Henry Ford of 3D printing, said. “In October we were close to profitability and right now we’re about the same place, reinvesting all the money we make in growth.”
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