3D scanning and 3D printing traditionally require sophisticated equipment at high prices. But when your product can give consumers a way to integrate 3D prints with their own technology, how do you release it to the public in the best manner?
In 2011, MIT researchers working in spinout Viztu Technologies released free software that replaced expensive scanning hardware with personal cameras. Now, with the help of commercial backing, the technology is public.
Viztu’s flagship web service, Hypr3D, was able to quickly generate 3D models of objects from a series of user-uploaded 2D digital photos or videos usually captured on cameras, webcams or smartphones. Less than a year after launch, Viztu -- co-founded by MIT students Thomas Milnes and CEO Michael Martin -- boasted thousands of users and tens of thousands of model views and downloads.
The service, although free, was also able to generate multiple revenue streams as enterprises contacted Viztu for them to tailor the technology for other purposes, including 3-D filmmaking to 3-D mapping.
Viztu eventually was sold to 3D systems, a 3D printing firm. Since the buyout, Viztu's software has been integrated into its global Cubify consumer platform, which is a popular way to use 3D printing services by consumers.
While the deal -- finalized in 2012 -- provided a large payout to the students, it also reminds us that companies surviving on bootstrapping may have a great idea, but sometimes help is needed by larger firms to bring innovative products to market -- and it's worth keeping an eye on what ideas are being developed by young entrepreneurs.
"As a tech entrepreneur, you really want to see your technology make it out into the wider world," Milnes says. "Viztu was all about democratizing 3D scanning, and 3D Systems' purchase helped us do that in a really big way."