Sunday, 25 August 2013

Michael Cao: Honda engineer builds 3-D business

As a young engineer at Honda, Michael Cao was awestruck when he first saw a room filled with massive machines printing out 3-D prototypes of car parts. The technology both fascinated and empowered him. 

“It just kind of blew my mind,” Cao said. “I thought it was like magic.” 

During the past decade, those machines have brought Cao’s ideas to life at Honda R&D Americas Inc. in Raymond, where the senior engineer develops and designs vehicle interiors.

Cao’s experience with 3-D printers at work eventually led him to build his own desktop model at home. Cao cobbled together existing designs to create his own variation and bought enough material to make two machines. He kept one for himself and sold the second on eBay.

“I guess there was demand for it,” Cao said. “Then several people had asked me if I was building more machines, and so I said, ‘Sure.’ A few dozen later, here we are. This is what I do in my spare time.”

Cao runs his company, IC3D Printers, out of his Dublin home. He spends nights and weekends working in his basement, which has been converted into an office and workshop.

When Cao started selling his printers in June 2012, he built them one at a time. As the business took off online, he subcontracted much of the assembly to an Ohio-based factory. Cao and his business partner, Larry Knopp, test and tune each printer before shipping to customers scattered around the world.

The printers, which require computer-aided-design software and plastic filament, cost $1,700 each.

IC3D’s printers allow more user control than competing models and have impressive resolution and speed, said Alex Bandar, who runs the Columbus Idea Foundry and purchased an IC3D printer for the workshop.

“I liken it to the beginning of the computer industry in the mid-’70s,” Bandar said of 3-D printing. “There are machines you can buy in SkyMall now. They’re still kind of quite simple. The ones that Michael and Larry are building are quite complex.”

Cao, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma before landing his first job at Honda, puts in 40-plus hours a week at Honda and devotes an additional 30 hours to his own business.    READ MORE,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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