Reporter Rachel Dubrovin introduces us to the University of Idaho graduate that created the company, and explains why printing in 3-D is more useful than you may think.
"I think additive manufacturing is, in a lot of ways, the future," said Element Robot Inc. CEO Chris Walker.
Element Robot is a Moscow-based start-up that's out to prove "additive manufacturing" isn't just for engineers.
"In other words… 3-D printing," said Walker.
"For me, I think the big reason behind why I think 3-D printing is so important is that it empowers people," said Element Robot Inc. Chief technical Officer John Feusi. "It allows anyone, anywhere to create whatever they want."
"I can make one, and it'll be just as expensive per-part as if I made a thousand, and I can give it all kinds of really complex features for free," said Walker.
So this is the 3-D printer. They call it 'Tritium,' and right now it's printing an iPhone case.
"That'll take about 45 minutes to an hour," said Element Robot Sales and Marketing Director James Prado.
"I built Element Robot to give as many people as possible access to 3-D printing because right now, only a very small portion of the population can really effectively use a 3-D printer," said Walker.
"Our main business right now is 3-D print vending machines," said Prado.
Element Robot recently installed its first vending machine on the University of Idaho campus.
"Just go online, go to our website, upload whatever you want to print, pay for it there," said Feusi.
"Click on that machine, order your print, and the machine will tell you when it's complete, and you can go pick it up," said Prado. "So you don't have to have your computer tethered to the machine, or an SD card or anything."
"We want to give every student at the university access to a great 3-D printer," said Walker.
It’s still a small business with only three employees that rent office space from a motorcycle company, but they plan to sell more printers to universities and various companies as people learn about 3-D printing capabilities.
"For people that, you know, they had a knob on their kitchen stove break, and they can replace it," said Feusi.
"So 3-D printing has gotten to the point where you can actually manufacture goods that are useable with a 3-D printer," said Walker. "They're accurate enough, they're strong enough, they're complex enough."
"You'll continue to see 3-D printing grow, and you'll see the materials and the styles and the uses grow as well," said Feusi.
Element Robot was created in 2012. Right now, you can find one of their 3-D printers on the U of I campus, and they hope to install one at Washington State University in the near future.