QU-BD Open Source Design & Manufacturing Startup, Interview

Teamwork is a wonderful thing. Frequently the world has to put up with 1) inventors who don’t market their product or interact with their community enough to be successful or 2) marketers who don’t engineer their product enough to produce something of real value. Occasionally the stars align and people have the sense to build a team with overlapping skills rather than try to go it alone.

QU-BD is taking the teamwork approach. They are a four-person startup, Chelsea Thompson is majoring in communication and is the (active and prolific) face of QU-BD, Nathan Meyers is a serial entrepreneur, Courtney Kinggard has a background in architecture and interior design, and David Mainard brings not only a 35 year career in machining and industrial design, but also his own machine shop. From the back-end David and Nathan bring experience, design expertise, and decades-long relationships with suppliers; from the front-end Chelsea brings an infectious excitement and real-time interaction with the community.

Their “little indie 3D printing and milling company” is 100% committed to being open source. not only does the philosophy determine what they design/build, it also informs their business model. They are pricing their wares at the minimum responsible margins. That way they can focus on high volume which will get open source rapid prototyping technology into the hands of as many people as possible.

More after the jump. 

QU-BD extruder (dual configuration shown).

While their Kickstarter project is focused on a nifty little “universal” plastic extruder for 3D printing (already well past its funding goal, by the way) QU-BD’s flagship product will be their Rapid Prototyping Mill (RPM). If it works, they will have achieved a milestone many have been striving for.

QU-BD Rapid Prototyping Mill from Snarkolepsy

Rather than doing one thing well (additive or subtractive) the RPM will do BOTH things well. For somewhere under $2,000 the RPM will mill steel and aluminum to a high tolerance AND will extrude plastic at a high speed. Normally a 3D printer has too much flex for milling and a mill is too slow for 3D printing.

Interview with Chelsea Thompson.

How did you guys meet?

David owned his machine shop in the same section of warehouses as one of Nathan’s businesses which is how they became friends. Courtney is Nathan’s girlfriend and I worked with her at a car dealership before we all started working together. This is actually the first project that we have all worked on together.

How is QU-BD organized and how do you guys work together as a team?

Its all flat, although David being the ‘real’ adult tends to have a bit more wisdom than we do so his ideas may carry a bit more weight. Nathan is really good at all the ‘visionary’ type stuff and David is the organized engineer type that puts it all together. Courtney and I are in charge of the marketing, organization and administration. We don’t really have a firm business plan per se. We had a big pow-wow with all of our ideas and we just prioritized what order we wanted to do them in.

What made you decide to open source the project?

We have been open source from day one. We believe that open source projects can lead to wonderful discoveries at a much more rapid pace.

Did you choose one particular license over others?

We want to be as open as possible, but given and giving credit where credit is due. We haven’t actually decided what license to release our first project under specifically…any thoughts!?

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

Having a CNC milling machine (and lathe) is AWESOME. We love 3D printers as much as the next guy but some things just need to be metal!

What is QU-BD’s business model?

Nathan and David both brought a lot of tools and equipment along with them from other business ventures, so our out of pocket expense at least initially has been confined to raw materials for prototyping our various projects and rent (a lot of cheap Bic pens…we lose a lot of pens!). Our overhead and expenditures are quite low. Nathan and David already had decade long or more relationships with material suppliers in a lot of varied industries so there isn’t a lot of guess work in bringing a product to market. We know what we need and who we need to call to get it. Having full size CNC equipment and tooling available at our shop is a huge boon; we can not only prototype but also do manufacturing in house. As far as our future products are concerned, we are taking an unconventional approach to pricing. Everything has (or is going to have) very thin margins, we want to make up for it in volume. Doing all the work in house, without a lot of overhead really lets us be as lean as possible. We are also selling direct and our pricing does not leave a lot of room for resellers but we figure this is the 21st century, people can find us on the internet and we can pass on that savings to the consumer. Getting 3D printers in as many people’s hands as possible is our goal.

Did you ever make a major shift in the direction of the project? Why?

We were originally focusing on getting our Rapid Prototyping Mill going first but after coming up with some brilliant (well to us anyways) ideas we decided to go forward with the extruder since its development was short. With our Rapid Prototyping Mill, we designed it as competition for the other small desktop CNC mills out on the market primarily. Then we came up with a way to allow it to retain the same linear motion system but also move VERY FAST. I think that having the ability to do additive as well as subtractive manufacturing in one package is a pretty big deal. To us, its all about adding value. Think of it this way…is an all metal 3D printer that is incredibly accurate, rigid and fast with a (approx.) 12x14x12 build area a good value at $1699.00? Is a CNC mill that can cut aluminum and even steel with precision in an (approx.) 10x12x12 build area a good value at the same base price? Our RPM can do both! There have been a lot of very skeptical people about its capabilities and I completely understand that. No one thus far has been able to do it successfully. We think everyone will be pleasantly surprised when its released.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

The single biggest skill that our group has is working together REALLY well. Some one will just bring up some random topic and we will all just go off on some tangent for 45 minutes. When everything is said and done we not only have resolved a problem but have come up with an improvement…it’s fun to work at QU-BD!

In your wildest dreams, what would be open sourced next?

I would love to see car manufacturers open up their designs, if for nothing else, to have a better understanding of how they work.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

Arkansas is majorly lacking in a Maker community. I hope we can get people to come out of the woodwork!

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One thought on “QU-BD Open Source Design & Manufacturing Startup, Interview

  1. [...] is working on that. Openalia interviewed them back when they were coming off of a successful effort to Kickstarter their own thermoplastic [...]

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