Executive Interview – Conor MacCormack
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Conor MacCormack is CEO of Mcor Technologies, the family-run company that manufactures the Matrix and IRIS 3D printer range. As this interview will show his passion for and pride in the company that he has established with his brother and his wife is palpable and second only to the sustainable and eco-friendly 3D printing technology it is built around.
3D Printing Industry: Can you give our readers a little background to Mcor Technologies, its ethos and the family connections?
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I saw 3D printing for the first time on a long-running BBC television series, showcasing new developments in the world of science called “Tomorrow’s World” in 1986. I was just in secondary school at the time and I thought, “That’s amazing!” It certainly appealed to the ‘Space 1999’ watching wannabe astronaut in me! But my interest in technology and engineering had its beginnings much earlier when as a young child I was tinkering with and building motorbikes with my big brother Fintan. Engines, rockets, space, computers captivated the mind!
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Roll on 15 years and I was working with Airbus as an engineer on the A380 and I was exposed to a lot of 3D CAD packages and 3D printing in my job. Then, while working on my PhD at Trinity College, I realized that, due to the high cost of the materials, only one of the students had an opportunity to print a model at the end of the year – just one – defeating the whole purpose of a 3D printer. Fintan and I saw that while machine prices were coming down, the price of consumables kept going in the opposite direction.
That was the seed of an idea that started with, “Could we make a super low cost machine that is also very eco-friendly for everyone to use?” Given our complementary backgrounds in engineering it had always been inevitable that Fintan and I would ‘invent’ a machine – we both had the desire to ‘upset the status quo’ and we both really wanted to make a difference and now we had found a mission – to put multiple 3D printed parts into multiple hands! We wanted to revolutionize how people design and communicate by making 3D printing accessible to the masses and make it as easy as printing on paper. Our mission was, and still is, to enable people to print in 3D without worrying about the cost, by creating a set of accessible tools that provide the freedom to innovate in an unlimited way.
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Mcor was set up in 2005 and Fintan and I worked on developing the technology and from this the Mcor Matrix was born. Since then Fintan and I have taken different roles in the company, I am company CEO and Fintan is CTO. My wife, Deirdre, is our CMO and was involved from the early stages conducting initial market research. Deirdre has undergraduate and graduate degrees in marketing and has held senior marketing positions at a number of large, global companies. We operated in stealth mode until 2008, and then, as a result of Deirdre’s great work, we were picked up in a few key industry blogs and articles. We instantly received 2 million hits to our site in just 10 days!
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The idea that this is a family business really carries through to everything we do. And because of that, basic values like trust, honesty, loyalty, quality, customer service and global citizenship all take priority at Mcor. People want to work with and for an approachable, partner- and customer-centric company that puts the utmost value on building truly lasting, trusting, loyal relationships with its partners, customers, employees, vendors and others. It’s also very important for us to give back to the community and be as environmentally friendly as possible in our technology and business practices. From a business and technology perspective, we are passionate about making 3D printing more accessible to everyone and decisions are made in support of that mantra.
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3D Printing Industry: The Laminated Object Manufacturing, or LOM, process was one of the earliest rapid prototyping processes in the early nineties but never really caught on then. Tell us about your “Eureka” moment with 3D printing with paper — specifically, office standard A4 paper — and the journey since.
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Our ‘Eureka’ moment was really about identifying a low cost sheet material that was eco-friendly and accessible – this was the easy bit! Paper was the obvious choice. The inception of our technology was less about following in the footsteps of other LOM technologies and more about creating a low cost sheet fed 3D printer.
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However, we meet a lot people who mistake our Paper 3D Printing technology with Helysis’ old LOM technology. Many of them lament this old technology and the benefits it provided to many industries but they also remember the issues with this printer. With this LOM printer, an adhesive was pre-applied to special paper on large rolls and then cut to shape with a laser. Since the extra, non-prototype, support material in the old LOM process was glued with the same intensity as the part, this made weeding and post-processing prototypes extremely difficult and time consuming. And needless to say machine part replacement costs were very high due to the use of lasers. We believe that we have improved on this process – as Julie Reece, our Marketing Director, recently wrote in our blog – ‘It’s not your Daddy’s LOM’!
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Mcor’s Paper 3D Printing technology is different. In the same way that many other 3D printing technologies have greatly evolved from their early implementations, so too has Paper 3D Printing. Our technology uses a Tungsten carbide blade (instead of an expensive laser) to cut each layer of regular business A4 or letter paper available from any office supply store and the machine dispenses water-based adhesive only where it’s needed – more on the part and only the smallest amount needed on the paper surrounding the part. So post processing is very quick and easy, and the process is the lowest cost and most eco-friendly in the industry. It was natural for us to move in this direction to deliver on our promise of making the process as easy and affordable – and therefore, accessible – as possible, while remaining friendly to the environment.
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3D Printing Industry: Mcor has some genuine USPs for its technology range with the paper / eco angle and FULL colour capabilities. Was this fully intentional and how difficult was it to establish?
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Yes, most definitely. All of our technology decisions have been made in support of making professional-class 3D printing more accessible while remaining eco-friendly. So it was actually very easy for us to identify the most important capabilities of our technology.
- Paper – Regular office A4 and letter paper is inexpensive, ubiquitous and eco-friendly. Pre-used paper can be used in the printers and the parts and excesses paper after printing can all be completely recycled. Paper is also clean to use and safe to handle. It doesn’t require any special venting, disposal or chemical post-processing. When you think about it, ink was designed for paper, so it’s the perfect medium for colour ink with the IRIS.
- Water-base adhesive – The method of dispensing the adhesive – more in the area of the part and less in the area surrounding the part, makes weeding parts after printing very quick and easy. And it’s also safe and eco-friendly.
- Full colour capability – On the surface, the decision to develop a full colour machine might not seem to clearly support our mission. But we wanted to make this once niche capability widely accessible with a low-cost, eco-friendly, high-quality colour machine.
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3D Printing Industry: What sort of responses are you getting to the IRIS full colour 3D printing capabilities since its official launch at Euromold at the end of last year?
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The response has been overwhelming. It has just completely exceeded our expectations. At EuroMold, we got the common reaction first to the paper, before they even realised the machine was printing in colour. A typical interaction went a lot like this: one of us would say, “It’s paper 3D printing,” knowing full well the reaction that would immediately follow. “Paper?!” followed by amazed expressions and, “No way!” We explained the technology and then said, “Would you like to hold a paper 3D printed part?” As soon as we placed the tactile models in their hands, they would smile in complete disbelief and say, “Amazing! This is fantastic! It’s paper? Really?” Then, when we told them that the models came out of the machine in full colour, they just couldn’t believe it. It was very gratifying. They would start telling us all kinds of applications that the IRIS is well suited for, rather than the other way around.
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Many partners have signed with us or approached us due to our colour capability, Staples being one of course. We have had so much positive feedback from new partners, but some of the most notable include:
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“In Education, the availability of a 3D printer opens up a new world of possibilities, imagination, creativity and innovation. The addition of colour to the process exponentially multiplies and enhances the educational experience. Let’s open wide the iris of the mind’s eye and experience the colors. Thank you Mcor.” -Fred Hampton, co-owner of Southern Educational Systems (SES)
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“The Mcor IRIS is just the 3D printer we’ve been waiting for. Our customers want to cost-effectively produce high-quality, durable 3D prototypes with the most realistic colours. These are precisely the capabilities Mcor has delivered with the IRIS and I’m certain we will see a huge demand for this new printer.” -Mr. Allan Valentin Hansen, MD, Saitu Graphic Equipments
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“We believe that a full colour 3D printer can only increase the potential of this market. At recent fairs we displayed the first colour models and the reactions were very positive; expectations and interests are high! Thanks to our extensive expertise in both colour and paper, Plantin and Tetterode are the ideal match for Mcor Technologies and we look forward to welcoming the IRIS.” -Bart Dupon, Manager Business Development Benelux, Plantin/Tetterode (a Staples company)
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And the response from the industry and prospective customers has been equally positive. Several publications noted the logical simplicity in our method of applying colour to the paper and the superiority of the colour compared to any other colour-capable technology. For example, a certain highly respected 3D printing industry editor, by the name of Rachel Park recently tweeted in response to a question about IRIS vs. another colour 3D printing technology, “Not sure there is THAT much competition right now. One is soaring the other is waning!”
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3D Printing Industry: Mcor set the Newswires alight with the Staples partnership announcement during Euromold in December – what can you tell us about this deal that wasn’t in the press release and where do you realistically see it going? Many of our readers are in the UK and US – can you give us any indication of when we can expect to see this service local to us?
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Staples Printing Systems Division plans to take Staples Easy 3D worldwide. The online platform for Staples Easy 3D will initially be made available in the Netherlands and Belgium in Q1 2013 and will be rolled out quickly to other countries.
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This is a very exciting time for us and we anticipate that this will have a huge impact on the use of 3D printing. Staples Printing Systems Division will make an announcement about the roll out soon.
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3D Printing Industry: The Staples partnership was not the only expansion announcement, tell us about the other channel partners Mcor has signed up and how this fits into the global plan.
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Over the past several months, we have added a number of notable dealer and service partners in key geographies around the world covering the MCAD, education and architecture markets. And we’ll be announcing many more in the coming months. Each of our partners brings something unique to the table.
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MCAE adds experience as they have been one of the leading suppliers of 3D digital technologies in Czech, Slovak and other foreign markets. They also provide technical training and engineering service in the 3D space and will sell Mcor products in Czech & Slovak Republic. We also added BL 3Dimension. Based in Chicago, IL and charged with providing Mcor 3D printing solutions in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana, BL 3Dimension will sell Mcor 3D printers and provide 3D print services in the five-state region.
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Also in the US, we added industry-leading architectural 3D printing and modeling firm, LGM. Located in Minturn, Colorado and with more than 20 years of experience, LGM will sell Mcor’s 3D printers in central Colorado and provide nationwide 3D printing services. This partnership is significant because LGM is widely regarded as the premiere resource for visualization and modelling solutions for the architecture, engineering and development industries.
To help expand Mcor’s reach into the US educational market, we signed Southern Educational Systems (SES), LAB Corporation and Industrial Solutions Group. We appointed SES as our educational distribution partner in the southeast region of the US. SES will sell Mcor 3D printers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. For more than 40 years, Southern Educational Systems has specialised in providing hands-on training equipment with support resources to the engineering, career and technical community and is a key supplier in the southeastern states of the US. Founded in 1971 and based in Newport Beach, CA, LAB Corp. is a leader in technical education products and services. LAB Corp. will sell the Matrix 300+ and IRIS in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State and Nevada. Industrial Solutions Group, located in Madison, Mississippi. brings ten years of experience in rapid prototyping and 3D printing, and will sell Mcor 3D printers to both the industrial and education markets in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
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In Europe, we announced our partnership with RGF, located in Cologne, Germany during EuroMold. RGF provide us with the largest German channel in the industry, with 29 member companies who will now sell the Mcor product line. For over 25 years RGF’s network and community network of resellers has served the printing and advertising industries throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. RGF members have extensive know-how in the fields of visual communication, print and media. RGF dealers specialise in digital printing, proofing, large format printing, colour management, prepress and photography segments. And, headquartered in Belgium, Plantin &Tetterode, a Staples company, will provide sales, promotion, demo, service and training for our 3D printers in the Benelux region. 3D printing complements their core business of printing and their vast experience in the implementation of software and hardware systems, consumables, services and training, and will also benefit the distribution of Mcor’s product in the Benelux region.
Located in Shanghai, China, Saitu Graphic Equipments Co., Ltd signed on as our Chinese distribution partner, selling Mcor 3D printers in China and Hong Kong. Saitu Graphics specialises in sales and service of imaging and 2D-print systems to the prepress and printing industry, design companies, as well as the educational and government markets.
Arguably the biggest 3D printing news of 2012, was that we struck a deal with Staples Printing Systems Division to launch a new 3D printing service called “Staples Easy 3D,” online via the Staples Office Centre. Staples’ Easy 3D will offer consumers, product designers, architects, healthcare professionals, educators, students and others low-cost, full colour 3D printed products from Staples stores. Customers will simply upload electronic files to the Staples Office Centre and pick up the models in their nearby Staples stores, or have them shipped to their address.
Our partners repeatedly say that Mcor’s low material costs, high quality, eco-friendliness and superb service and support as reasons for joining Mcor. Equally important, they tell us that our full colour 3D printing technology, in addition to the ability for them to own their own territories, will give them a distinct competitive advantage and help them grow their businesses. Together, we look forward to collaborating on many exciting 3D innovations in the coming year and years to come. Look for more announcements soon!
3D Printing Industry: Mcor seems to have come on in leaps and bounds in the last 12-18 months. Tell us about some of your new hires and the growing team.
Yes, it’s been an exciting time for Mcor with the release of the IRIS, the Staples announcement, the release of the Matrix 300+ and paper 3D printing becoming the technology of choice in many markets. A key success factor for us is having the right people, and new colleagues we’ve added over the past six months are shining examples who will help us drive more expansion going forward.
We added two new senior sales directors to build on the company’s momentum. Both are 3D printing sales veterans. Gary Fudge, most recently of 3D Systems and formerly Z Corporation, joined Mcor as Sales Director of Americas and Bryan Ferrand, also comes from 3D Systems (and formerly Z Corporation) joined as Sales Director EMEA & APAC. Both Directors are responsible for expanding business in their respective territories, in verticals such as education, GIS, MCAD, AEC, arts, entertainment and medical.
Gary brings a wealth of experience and a reputation for expanding sales in high-growth markets and has over 20 years experience in direct sales, channel management and technical sales management across service, hardware and software sectors. He has successfully built and managed channels and implemented sales programs around the world. Gary has also held a number of leadership roles in ARRK Product Development Group and Geomagic.
Bryan comes with a track record achieving record growth figures within Central & Eastern Europe & Russia with Z Corp and moving to continued success at 3D systems in Eastern Europe, Russia & UK. Bryan also worked as sales director for Emco, one of the largest educational resellers in the UK for the Z Corp range of 3D printers. He was responsible for overall company sales & marketing, managing the sales team and a large number of customer accounts/projects.
We also added Julie Reece, again, most recently of 3D Systems and formerly Z Corp, as Marketing Director. Julie brings a wealth of experience and a reputation in B-to-B marketing communications, including social marketing, public relations, Website marketing, content, events, sales enablement and more. Julie is widely known and respected in the industry.
We’ll continue to invest in the right people in order to ensure broad adoption of accessible paper 3D printing with full 3D colour capability.
3D Printing Industry: The legitimate excitement — and the more unfortunate hype — around 3D printing is really starting to escalate, what is your personal opinion on this and do you find you have to combat inflated expectations as a result?
3D Printing is revolutionary and I never get tired of explaining what a 3D Printer can do and it’s even better when you tell them they can do it with regular office paper! This is in fact beyond their expectations! We get the WOW factor every time.
Our whole goal here is to fulfill these expectations as much as possible by providing a technology that makes 3D printing as easy as printing on paper! And I believe Mcor is the company best equipped to do this with our paper 3D printer products and with our clearly defined road map of patentable products coming down the line in the near future!
For home 3D printing I predict paper to be a much more suitable material than melted plastic or powder. And for broader adoption this technology needs to be low cost, eco and full colour and through our partnership with Staples we can make this technology accessible to everyone and this will really turn the hype into reality!
3D Printing Industry: What is your take on the recent “3D print a gun” stories?
My views are simple in that people have had the capability to make weapons for a long time even without 3D printing. Somebody with a pipe and welder could probably make a weapon if they so desired. If people are really worried about printing guns all we have to do is ban the bullets!
3D Printing Industry: In terms of 3D printing applications, do you have a favourite and will you share it with us?
The reaction to a full colour print of someone’s head is incredible ….and especially when it is Bryan’s head – we’ve had every comment from, ‘it’s scary’ ‘creepy’ ‘so real’ ‘AMAZING’…..and it goes on.
Since we have launched the IRIS I realize more and more the value of colour to so many applications – GIS Mapping, entertainment, archaeology. One million colours present amazing possibilities.
And the NASA enthusiast in me loves the idea of printing in space – The possibilities range from building on-demand parts for human missions to building large space habitats that are optimized for space. Once the printers and material are set in space, missions will have the freedom to build what they need when they need it and not have to rely on transport from Earth.
3D Printing Industry: What is your vision, including personal predictions, for the next 5 years for 3D printing in general; and for Mcor in particular?
In general I believe we are at the start of an exponential growth in the 3D printing industry and people will look back on this time in history and see it as the start of a new 3D age. In the next 5 years we will see further blending of the open source and commercial equivalents, a plateau in the DIY community for building machines in the home and increase in bureau services and walk-in off the street 3D print shops like Staples that will really bring 3D printing to the masses.
For Mcor we believe we will change how people design, innovate and communicate – transporting ideas into reality in schools, offices, universities, outer space…….. My vision is to develop the machine that will change the world we live in – just watch this space!