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Idealab Backs the $249 MOD-t, the Latest 3-D Printer for the Masses

New Matter is launching an Indiegogo campaign and an Etsy-like market for 3-D designs.

Courtesy: New Matter

The age of the inexpensive 3-D printer has arrived.

In recent months, we’ve seen the Peachy Printer, the Micro 3D and the QU-BD One Up, all promising to hit the market for $300 or less.

The latest entrant to offer a 3-D printer for the masses is New Matter, a startup co-founded by Idealab’s Bill Gross and serial inventor Steve Schell. On Wednesday morning, they’ll kick off a 35-day Indiegogo campaign for the MOD-t, a 3-D printer that will come in at $249.

A limited (and undisclosed) number of early supporters will be able to nab it for $149 — with another batch available at $199. By way of comparison, the cheapest printer from popular manufacturer MakerBot starts at $1,375.

“My dream is to be the first million-selling 3-D printer and to someday have a printer in every home and in every classroom,” Gross said in an email.

The startup is looking to raise $375,000, all of which will fund fabrication. It expects to deliver the products to early customers in the first half of next year.

New Matter has already secured operating funding from Idealab, First Round Capital, Alsop Louie, FrogVentures, Biotechonomy and angel investor Scott Banister.

Schell said they’ve lowered the price not by sacrificing quality, but by improving engineering. They’ve devised a new type of two-axis motion system for the build plate, the part that moves the materializing creation around under the print head.

While typically it requires a series of rods and gears for each axis, they’ve created a novel type of pinion rod that also acts as a gear. (It’s easier to show it than explain it, so check out an early demo prototype video here.) It means the rods interact directly with the plate, requiring fewer components while offering improved precision, according to the company. They’ve applied for patent protection.

The MOD-t was created in partnership with FrogVentures, the investment arm of design firm Frog, which did early work with Apple.

There are some limits to the MOD-t: It only prints in polylactic acid with a resolution of 200 microns and a four by six by five-inch “build envelope.” (Higher-end 3-D printers can print at 100 microns, with bigger sizes and multiple materials.)

The grand promises of 3-D printing include: Simple production of complex shapes, inexpensive replacement parts, new markets for designers and makers, and rapid prototyping that enables easy product refinement.

But the products have yet to catch on among everyday consumers. The challenges to date have been the high price of the printers, the steep learning curve for those without design backgrounds and, arguably, an unclear value proposition for household use.

New Matter is attempting to address those latter issues as well. At the end of the campaign, it plans to launch an “Etsy-meets-iTunes ecosystem,” offering an array of 3-D, customizable designs to help people get started. Some will be free, others for sale.

It’s not an entirely original idea (see here and here), but they expect the library will help distinguish the company in the low end of the market.

“We want to provide users with a highly curated store filled with designs they could print out on their MOD-t,” Schell said. “That’s what makes us unique from all the other Kickstarters out there claiming to have an inexpensive 3-D printer.”

You can check out the official campaign video below:

Update: This story has been updated to correct the size of the MOD-t’s “build envelop.”

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