> I had worked for nine years as computer software and hardware
>support person for the College of Engineering when I decided I needed a
I enjoyed reading your story of how you got involved in this industry,
so here is mine.
In about October 1990, I went to a workshop for entrepreneurs sponsored
by the Austin (Texas) Technology Incubator. The program included video
presentations on some of the incubator's tenant businesses. One of those
companies was DTM Corporation, whose video showed a machine that used a
laser beam and plastic powder to turn a computer design into a solid object.
In that two-minute movie clip, I saw my future, and the future of humankind,
flash before my eyes. This was the technology I would later come to call
The next three weeks I spent in the library reading everything I could
find on fabbers. I found out that DTM's tecnology was only one of more than
a dozen processes under investigation around the world for achieving the
same objective, and that a company by the name of 3D Systems had sold over a
hundred of a liquid-based machine to the likes of General Motors, Kodak and
I had spent most of the 1980s in graduate school because I believed that
a new wave of technology, something more profound and more impactful than
computers, was going to emerge from discoveries in modern physics. When I
found out about fabbers I asked myself if this was the technology revolution
I had come to the University of Texas eight years earlier to prepare for.
As I learned more about fabbers, I decided that they presented an almost
unique combination of three characteristics. First, they were clearly
feasible because of the results that had already been demonstrated by 3D
Systems, DTM, and others. Second, it was evident that improving and
developing the technology to its ultimate potential would offer many decades
of fascinating technical challenges. And third, there was no doubt that
successfully tackling those challenges would build some of the greatest
financial fortunes of the 21st century. Given this combination of immediate
feasibility, long-term technical challenges, and stunningly lucrative
financial opportunities, I decided to dedicate the next thirty years of my
life to a career in developing fabber technologies.
I hurriedly finished up my Ph.D. dissertation and it was approved by the
faculty in April 1991. Nine days later I was in Minneapolis for my first job
in fabbers, preparing the procedings of one of the first conferences in the
field. To get there, I put my furniture in storage and packed the essentials
of a cross country trip into my car. After the conference, I spent the next
four months criss-crossing the country, meeting as many of the inventors,
entrepreneurs, and users of fabbers as I could find. On that trip, I met
Scott Crump, the founder and CEO of Stratasys, Terry Feeley, a laser
entrepreneur who was behind the development of the Quadrax fabber, Efrim
Fudim, who had invented one of the first working fabbers, David Gore, who
was working on one of the first ideas for a metal fabber, Haim Levi, who
represented Israel's Cubital fabber in the US, Peter Sferro, who ran the SLA
lab for Ford Motor Company, and many others.
Meeting Peter Sferro was a high point of the trip. In Pete's lab at
Ford, I laid eyes for the first time on an SLA. I had previously seen DTM's
Sinterstation, but somehow the SLA was more awesome. Seeing that spot of
laser light dancing across the surface of the eerily glowing vat of resin, I
felt as if I had stepped onto the set of a science fiction movie, except
that this was no special effect. It was real, and it was making "stuff"
right in front of my eyes!
Around the time of that trip, I was turned down for employment by 3D
Systems, Ciba Geigy, DTM, Helisys, Stratasys, and any other company I
thought could be the basis for a career in fabbers. But I was determined, so
I started Ennex Fabrication Technologies and took on little consulting
projects. I did speaking engagements for any group that would let me talk
about fabbers, and I wrote a book which was published by Prentice Hall. The
consulting business grew, and in the meantime I developed the concept for a
new fabber technology. The adventure continues today as Ennex Corporation
combines consulting with development efforts to bring an exciting new fabber
I am now nine years into my 30-year game plan for fabbers. It's not an
easy journey but I can't think of anything more exciting to be doing on this
planet today. I've had the support of an incredible cadre of wonderful
people, and I've learned a great deal about myself, about business, and
about technology. Clearly both I and the whole industry have only scratched
the surface of what we are here to do. The world ain't seen nothin' yet!
Elaine, I look forward to reading the stories of many of our other
colleagues in this industry.
Ennex Corporation, Los Angeles, USA, (310) 824-8700
Copyright © 1999, Marshall Burns. All rights reserved.
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