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Innovation & Job News

From garage startup to multi-million dollar maker, Beachwood company is a 3D success


Desktop 3D printing is new enough that there's still room for exciting yet practical uses of the technology, says Rick Pollack, founder of MakerGear, a Beachwood designer and manufacturer of affordable desktop 3D printers.
 
The innovation is currently used to print human teeth and organs for study, while businesses are making prototype tools and other parts. Pollack has tapped into the nascent industry's energy to develop the company, which he started in his garage, into an award-winning, multi-million dollar enterprise with 25 employees.
 
MakerGear engineers and builds machines by hand from its Beachwood headquarters, with components manufactured at the company's 6,000-square-foot facility in Newbury. Growth has been in the double digits over the last few years, while revenue is steadily in the millions.
 
"We're self-funded with no outside help or sales and marketing department," says Pollack. "Our growth has been organic and done completely through word-of-mouth or positive press."
 
Local businesses, entrepreneurs and educators use MakerGear printers to innovate in their respective fields, Pollack notes. Clients range from companies producing multiple iterations of a part to makers and hobbyists interested in what the machines can do. Printers come in two configurations: the MakerGearM2 ($1,825) and a kit version ($1,500) that allows consumers to build the device themselves.
 
Pollack entered the 3D printing industry in 2009 wanting to manufacture goods on a desktop. While product creation requires sometimes exorbitant expenditure of time and money, the former software developer learned that 3D printing allows for low-volume, low-cost production without any special tooling.
 
With this knowledge in mind, Pollack bought a desktop lathe for $250 and started making printer parts for hobbyists out of his garage. Today, he produces thousands of parts that are shipped all over the world.  
 
"Starting this, I had no commercial experience, and had to learn to how to be a manufacturer post-recession," says Pollack. "I treated this industry like I'm a customer, in that I'm making a quality product at a reasonable price and with great customer support."
 
MakerGear has received its share of accolades since launch. In November, the MakerGear M2 was ranked No. 1 worldwide by 3D Hubs, an independent 3D printer review site. Pollack is proud of the distinction as well as contributing to the rapid expansion of high-tech manufacturing in the Cleveland area.
 
"This technology has lowered the barrier of entry for manufacturing," he says. "We stand out because we're focused on making a great product for our customers that's manufactured in the U.S." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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