Stratasys Ltd. is determined to scare up some fun this Halloween with a new line of glow-in-the-dark plastics that customers can “print” into 3-D ghouls, goblins and trolls right in their home or office.
The new plastic, which comes in a stringlike form and retails for $130 per spool, was introduced earlier this month by Stratasys’ subsidiary MakerBot.
While Eden Prairie-based Stratasys has traditionally focused on manufacturing industrial 3-D printers for automobile, airplane, medical device and other customers, MakerBot focuses on creative types who want to make fun or useful prototypes with a small desktop 3-D printer in the home or office. The objects are made by depositing many tiny layers of plastic until they form the desired shape or product.
The latest offering by the $324 million company requires the Halloween artist to first charge the plastic filament for two or three minutes. The charge activates a phosphorous dye inside the plastic. Once charged, that plastic filament can be “printed” into any creepy, crawly or floating shape, and it will glow a “ghostly green” in the dark.
Along with the new glow-in-the dark materials, “We introduced a couple new MakerBot PLA Filament colors this fall, including our beautiful translucent filaments as well as the versatile MakerBot flexible filament and dissolvable filament,” said MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.
The products are just the latest offering for Stratasys, which co-founders Scott and Lisa Crump first formed in their kitchen in 1992.
Speaking Monday to an audience of business owners at Enterprise Minnesota’s CEO Peer Council, Scott Crump said he got the idea for Stratasys after playing around with a glue gun, design software and a computer. He used the tools to make a toy frog for his then-2-year-old daughter.
“She loved it and played with it often,” said Crump. “But for me, it was an early view that you could actually produce a product from a computer.”
With that, his idea for a programmable, no-mess rapid prototyping device was born. Crump said he and Lisa used kitchen pots and pans to melt the first batches of plastics and waxes used in the business. That worked for a while until their food started tasting like plastic, said Crump with a chuckle. They moved the business into the garage.
Crump said he always wanted to offer design engineers a quick and clean way to make batches of test products ranging from jewelry to installation tools used in BMW car factories.
“I had a dream 25 years ago to offer engineers 3-D printing from a CAAD design [computer],” Crump said, adding that business owners today can use the technology to “create your dream.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Caught in the lobby outside the seminar room, Crump showed a seminar attendee a large plastic wrench. He then pulled from his pockets a handful of orange and yellow ball bearings, followed by a bright yellow chain, all crafted from the thousands of printers Stratasys now sells around the world.
Back in the conference room, he showed business executives videos of fashion models in Paris strutting down the runway in daring high-heel shoes made by Stratasys 3-D printers. Another video showed doctors and therapists using the firm’s rapid prototypers to make robotic arm straps for a 3-year-old girl with a birth defect.
Now the company has a host of new machines that mix or layer different plastics, rubbers and waxes so that products can have different movable parts with varying strength and flexibility, said Lisa Crump.
Stratasys machines make parts for Delta Air Lines; General Motors; the University of Minnesota; GVL Poly in Litchfield, Minn.; Whiteboard in Eden Prairie; and ProtoLabs in Plymouth.