We had the rare opportunity to sit down with Mcor Technologies' CEO, Conor MacCormack at CES and find out what’s been happening with the company in recent months. This is part 2, part 1 is here.
Fabbaloo: You’ve taken all this time focusing on the delivery, as you’ve told us, what’s happening with the sales side in the interim? Are you still accepting orders?
Conor MacCormack: Yes we are still taking orders – with Flex on board we are now more than able to manage demand.
Our sales team have been busy with expanding our channel and taking pre-orders. We have a substantial order book going into 2017 and plan to add to this this year as our dealers get set up.
All in all even though setting up production took a little longer than expected we are very satisfied that we have set up a really robust manufacturing arm capable of ramping and producing a high quality product right off the production line. I hope all are waiting customers will appreciate this!
Fabbaloo: When will you be ramped up for “full production”?
Conor MacCormack: Flex have advised a controlled ramp with a product of this complexity – this is again ‘Best Practice’ and they are the experts here. This means that we are in a controlled ramp for the first two months after which we can start to move into full production. Flex have our production line up and running and so can flick a switch and within a four-week period have multiple shifts working.
Fabbaloo: So in 2017 you will be shipping a lot of machines, then?
Conor MacCormack: Flex can ramp to meet whatever the sales requirement is, so suffice to say that the demand is high for the ARKe and we expect to be shipping a lot of printers this year.
All the hard work is done – supply chain, quality control etc and now we are in a position to press that button and supply will be forthcoming!
Fabbaloo: You’ve essentially built a system that can produce these machines on demand and in quick, high volume fashion. That’s an amazing place to be for a 3D printer manufacturer.
Conor MacCormack: Yes it is all about high volume die casting and injection molding. This is a very different approach than we had with the IRIS for example which was completely CNC’d out of a billet of aluminium. It was accurate, but very expensive to make. Also most of the plastic parts would have been machined, and we’re moving all that over to injection molded plastic.
I’m amazed at the tooling; it’s expensive! But the price per part is only cents. For example, the tool to make a little sprocket or something might cost USD$10,000, but making the sprocket after will be only say, USD$0.20 each. It’s an incredible return on your investment.
Fabbaloo: Now that you’ve got this system going and tuned well, would you then shift your attention to marketing and sales? To leverage that capability and sell as many units as you can?
Conor MacCormack: Yeah. It’s like any business, focus moves from one part of the business to another depending on what stage of development you are at with the product cycle. Production has certainly been the biggest focus for the last 6 months. We had a lot of pre-orders and the sales team have been busy building the channel (we have about 150 dealers now). Now that the production door has been opened, it’s a case of fulfilling orders and getting the dealers up and running with demo printers.
We have a mix of existing dealers and new dealers. The new dealers are particularly interested in the ARKe and these include big dealers in Japan, Taiwan, China and other places globally.
Fabbaloo: How are you looking to raise funds?
Conor MacCormack: Part of the reason I’m at CES is for fundraising. One of the things I wanted securely in place before commencing a fundraising round was production.
Now that we are at that stage, it is a perfect time to start some conversations. We have met a lot of people in the investment community over the years and now that we have a product in full production we have a LOT of interest – the engine is running and we are ready to take off!
Fabbaloo: What’s your view on the current state of competition in the color 3D printing market? Do you see any serious competitors to your technology at this point?
Conor MacCormack: Nothing really at this point. There’s a lot of people experimenting with 3D printing plastic. The challenge with FDM-style approaches is that when you mix the colors it’s going to take some time for the color transition to occur. People are experimenting with printing here and then going off the print area to purge the intermediate plastic. That’s one solution, but when you think about what we have: “per pixel color changing”. Each pixel can be a different color. Or as I often say it’s not full color unless it can print ‘Any Color Any Time’ (ACAT) on the build!
Unless they’re using some form of jetting technology, they’re going to have a hard time to compete with a print head like ours. And we print onto paper - there are simply very few things that can compete with that.
There are powder companies emerging following expired IP but this technology has a challenge in that the image diffuses within the powder due to the spherical nature of the particles. Alternatively, we have a much crisper edge on our colors.
I think HP coming into the market has been good for us as it validates the use of color. The fact that HP is going after color illustrates the need for colour in industrial applications and more.
At Rapid where HP launched their printer, we had people coming right off the HP booth to our booth and they were saying “Oh, this already does full color!” HP’s full color isn’t available until later and it will cost USD$200K or more. So we’ve had a bit of an uplift from that!
I’m wary about saying we don’t have competition; I don’t believe that. Somebody could be working on something in left field. We have a lot of patents going through that aren’t necessarily paper-related; some of it is for protection and others geared at going after another print engine in the future – so a lot more to come from Mcor!
Fabbaloo: You’ve been at this, what, ten years now? Was it worth it? How do you feel about everything? All that effort to get to today.
Conor MacCormack: (Laughs) In many ways for us it was all about the WHY – as cliché as it sounds we set up Mcor to make a difference – solve a problem, in this case to make 3D printing accessible to a greater audience. And the WHY keeps us focused on our vision. For me, pulling the cover off the machine at CES last year, those are the moments you live for. That’s what gets us excited – being innovative and bringing new things to the market!
That and seeing someone using the printer for an application you had not imagined. This happened with Honda - we didn’t even know Honda was using our technology until a guy from Honda asked to meet with us in Ireland and he then explained how they are using it to produce carbon fiber molds and more. There is great satisfaction in getting this feedback.
We have also built a great team of people who have taken on our vision – this is hugely satisfying especially now that we have more products, dealers and customers.
This has been an amazing journey and life is never dull! But when you look back to the early days you wonder what kept us going - it’s that irrational optimism that inspires when you are against the odds I suppose either that or a bit of Irish Madness!