In case you're not familiar with Structur3d and what we do: We're just days away from launching our first product, the Discov3ry. It's a universal add-on paste extruder for 3D printers, which can be easily integrated with virtually any filament desktop 3D printer out there. What that means is you'll be able to use it to print Silicone, Nutella, and other sticky things that flow.

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When Charles and I first met and got to chatting at the KwartzLab Makerspace in our hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, we were surprised to learn that we'd both encountered a similar problem during our Ph.D. research: how to extrude paste like materials for 3D printing.

Numerous people have asked us why we are creating a paste extruder as an add-on device and not a full 3D printer. It’s an important question, and one that we had to consider carefully. Others, including MakerBot and the Fab@Home project had both tried to introduce paste printing before. These attempts didn’t go very far, apparently due to technical difficulties.

Because we still believe there is tremendous potential in 3D printing with paste materials, we took this as a challenge. As we looked around at the 3D printer market, it became clear that the decision to create only an add-on device was the right one. Here’s why:

Affordability

Plenty of makers and 3D printing enthusiasts have already dropped somewhere between $500 and $3000 on a desktop 3D printer. 

Our add-on paste extruder can help Makers breathe new life into their 3D printer for less than $350. That's incredibly affordable considering the new possibilities it opens up to you. 

Hobbyists may have begun to feel like the usefulness of the rigid plastic pieces they print has begun to subside.  Professional designers can use the Discov3ry to affordably expand the range of possibilities for what they can prototype .

Focus on what we know best

Charles and I are materials engineers, we understand the properties of the materials we work with and that there is currently a gap in the selection for 3D printing. We know how to extrude different paste materials in a manner that enables us to print with them.

We know our materials, but we're not mechatronics engineers. Focusing on reinventing only the parts of the printer that are involved with the delivery and extrusion of the material means that we're able to move faster, and develop a better product.

Besides:

We've already built our own 3D printers

We love our Rep-Rap printers; I personally have built a Prusa Mendel i2. We put hours of effort into constructing them, and many more hours into keeping them working.  

Having that experience, we can appreciate how much effort is required to completely design, manufacture and support an entirely new printer.

The existing 3D printer manufacturers are doing fantastically innovative work to improve on the cost and quality of 3D printers.  Instead of being little guys, going head to head with the behemoths of 3D printing, we prefer to enhance their already great products and stand on the shoulders of giants!

There will be 98,000 Desktop 3D printers sold this year

That's according to a late 2013 Gartner report on 3D printing.

The rapidly growing number of 3D printers in the world represents an ecosystem which we can augment and enrich. Why would we want to compete with these established printer manufacturers? We'd rather spend our energy fostering a community!

It seems like there's a new 3D printer on Kickstarter every week...

Printing paste is a brand new area, hardly explored by the Maker community before. There is a lot of work and experimentation to be done:

- New techniques and models need to be developed for manufacturing flexible objects
- New materials that we haven't even thought of need to be tested for printing
- New applications for 3D printing need to be explored

We're a small team. Although we spend all the time we can playing around with our paste extruder, we can't possibly match the creativity, innovation or sheer amount of experimentation that tens of thousands of makers can bring to the table.

Conclusion

We can't wait to release the Discov3ry, and watch what Makers do with hugely expanded range of materials at their disposal. By creating an add-on, we'll be able to reach more people faster, and begin learning along side the community.

The first 67 units in the production batch of our Discov3ry universal paste extruder will be $50 off.  If you're excited about the opportunity to explore new possibilities in printing, join our mailing list to be find out first when we launch the Discov3ry.