Earlier this week, eight finalists gathered at Madison Square Garden for the presentation of the Creator Awards, a prize conceived by collaborative workspace company WeWork. The competition is designed to give a financial boost to entrepreneurs making a positive impact on the world, and one company in the 3D printing world that is making an undeniably positive impact is re:3D. The company is known for the large-scale Gigabot 3D printer, but the Gigabot is much more than just a big 3D printer – it’s a 3D printer that has done a lot of good.
From helping to heal a dog to creating teaching aids for visually impaired students and making parts on-demand for a fire department, the Gigabot has been used by caring people to help others in numerous cases, but the re:3D team itself is also dedicated to using it to make the world a better place. The Gigabot has traveled all over the world to allow people in developing countries to secure employment and manufacture for themselves. Co-Founder Samantha Snabes has been working in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria to 3D print coral reefs that will replace the natural ones destroyed by the hurricane. Even better, she’s using plastic water bottles as printing material, and that’s where re:3D’s next focus will be – developing a pellet extruder that will allow the Gigabot to print with recycled material. Right now they have a prototype, but the next step is to take it to a final product.
Luckily, re:3D now has $1 million to help it do so. While that top award had intiially been intended for one winner, re:3D was one of two $1 million winners, as the Creator Awards judges chose to award two inspiring endeavors. Also coming out on top was Global Vision 2020, a Maryland-based company that provides inexpensive prescription eyeglasses for people in impoverished locations. Snabes was so overwhelmed at winning the award that she actually fell to her knees on the stage.
“My employees are now getting healthcare!” she exclaimed.
re:3D created the first prototype of the pellet extruder after winning the Scale Award in the earlier rounds of the Creator Awards in the company’s hometown of Austin, Texas. With the prize money from the final competition, it should have more than enough to finish the final product and allow Gigabots everywhere to be used as recycling machines.
“Winning the $1 million would provide us the financial resources to not only refine our pellet printer prototype to accept ground-up plastic water bottles, but also to allow us to engineer a grinder, dryer, and feeder system to allow people to truly manufacture from waste onsite,” said re:3D Creative Director Morgan Hamel in a blog post prior to the awards ceremony. “It’s been our mission from the start to create a standalone system that could serve as an on-site factory, allowing a user to 3D print directly from waste.”
Samantha Snabes at the Creator Awards in Austin [Image: Moyo melements.me / @moyo3k]
The other winners included:
Andiamo – a startup that provides custom 3D printed orthotics, launching a little over three years ago with a crowdfunding campaign
Cadus – an independent aid organization, currently providing humanitarian aid in Syria
Eye Control – a provider of technology that allows “locked-in” individuals to communicate only with eye movements
Microsoft Teamwork Award – $36,500
The Community Giver Award went to Carolyn Jensen, Felipe Barreiros, Carla Cornejo and Wes Hamilton. Congratulations to all of the winners, and thank you for the work that you do.