Tell us about 3Doodler.
The 3Doodler started just over a year ago. We use 3D printers quite often for our prototyping of various products and Peter Dilworth was sitting there one day as we were working at the lab, watching the 3D printer chug along when it made a small mistake. It left a gap in its prints. Peter was like, “that’s annoying. I wish I could just take the printer head, fill in that one spot and then put it back. Why can’t you do that?” Then he went “Oh.” It was one of those moments!
The next day we took apart one of the 3D printers and we made what we called The Teacup – a giant stepper motor and the extrusion head of the 3D printer controlled by Arduino. It was horrendous and hideous and it barely worked. I mean it really barely worked, but it worked. The seed of the idea was planted. We then went through five iterations before launching the Kickstarter version, improving it, added the cooling system, and getting it ready for productization and manufacturing. The version that is being manufactured now is a further revision which has been adapted even further for mass production.
What’s the history of the 3Doodler team?
Pete and I first met while working at WowWee in Hong Kong. Pete was working as an inventor trying to ready Troody (a walking dinosaur) for commercialisation, and I was managing an R&D team taking several products to market. Then in late 2010, when we were both back in Boston, we started WobbleWorks with the aim of inventing our own toy and consumer product concepts and licensing them out under traditional inventor deals. There are at least five other WobbleWorks products coming to market over the next two years, but 3Doodler is the first product that we have taken all the way to production ourselves. Dan and I also go back to Hong Kong days. We met in late 2007 when he was working there as a lawyer. He then left law and ran two software startups. Towards the end of 2012 I asked him if he’d help us launch 3Doodler. Dan really was was the heart and soul of the whole Kickstarter campaign, so it made perfect sense to bring him on as a co-founder to help us build out 3Doodler and the team for the long term.
Now here’s where it gets funny, Dan met Faraz, our Lead Interactive Designer & Chief Doodler through Airbnb (but that’s a whole other story), and then convinced two of his former colleagues from his software days to jump across! Finally there’s Tom, who handles production for us in Asia, who we met through an old colleague. In short, we had a choice between building a team in once place, but spending months recruiting vs working with great people, spread all over, but who we trust and know will get the job done; we chose the latter and it’s working out well.
Where can people find out more about 3Doodler?
Our website is the best place to go. And that is going to be the hub our all our Community and retail efforts moving forward. Right now you can pre-order your 3Doodler on the site and we are posting our news on there, but watch this space, as something very special is in the works which we’ll be launching in the next couple of months.
What inspires you? Any industry trends or companies in particular?
The people we work with! We are a small team, but everyone works really hard and we’re a very creative bunch. The ideas our team members come up with are a constant source of inspiration, and many of the initiatives you’ll see launched over the next months and years have come straight from them!
How did you hear about littleBits?
We were back and forth a lot between New York and Boston around launch time. One day Dan and I were walking near MoMA and we saw an awesome littleBits window display. Only a week later 3Doodler was at a startup show and littleBits were right next to us.
Any plans to combine littleBits and 3Doodler for future projects?
For sure, and we’re doing it already! There’s a 3Doodled bicycle that has featured on our website. For a long time now we’ve wanted to re-create it with moving parts. When we finally got our hands on some LittleBits that’s exactly what we did, creating a new bike and a littleBits powered conveyor belt. The conveyor belt is made of sewing thread bobs (as the rollers), duct tape (as the conveyor belt), three small sheets of plastic (that had been joined together using the 3Doodler), and the whole thing is powered by parts taken from the LittleBits holiday kit.
What advice can you give to people who are interested in creating with littleBits?
Plan things out ahead of time, keeping in mind things like spacing and how the littleBits need to be connected to each other. And get creative with the ancillary materials you are using. Think about what ordinary household items can be used as substitutes for the things you need… for example our use of sewing thread bobs for rollers! And just like building product in the wider world, it takes experimentation and plenty of failure before you find the perfect solution.