A Chinese startup called Polymakr launched on Kickstarter last year with much fanfare about its newly developed 3D printing fiaments: a stronger PLA ($24/lb), a faster-printing flexible plastic ($30/lb), and a wood-mimicking PLA foam, called PolyWood ($30/lb).
Although there are scores of 3D printer projects on Kickstarter, Polymakr touched a nerve and took off like a rocket. Slightly more than 1,000 backers contributed $100,999 within a year, giving the company its commercial launch.
The company has since changed its name to PolyMaker, received venture funding, moved sales to its own Web sites, moved into a 20,000 square foot factory near Shanghai, and has been collaborating with companies like Bayer MaterialScience (now Covestro) to produce filaments for industrial applications.
The key person behind Polymaker is CEO Xiaofan Luo, who received his BS in polymeric materials and engineering from Fudan University in Shanghai in 2005, his master’s from Case Western Reserve University, and his PhD from Syracuse. The cofounder is Hang Qu, who is currently Polymaker’s VP of Sales. Previously, Qu had worked in sales for Solutia in Asia and also graduated from Fudan University with a degree in polymer science in 2005.
Luo and Qu were caught by surprise by their overnight success and struggled mightily to meet shipment commitments to its backers. PolyWood, particularly, was not ready for prime time at the start of the Kickstarter campaign. Its foaming properties did not transfer from the lab to production as had been hoped. Actual output was just 10 percent of what was projected.
The company says it has worked out the production issues, and has also added sales and distribution capabilities in Europe and the United States.
In September, Polymaker and Covestro jointly announced the launch of two types of 3D printer filament made from polycarbonate, a first. Polycarbonate is a real-world engineering plastic, and offers a major upgrade in thermal and mechanical properties from the plastics traditionally available for 3D printers. PC-Plus is available now and PC-max will be offered later this year.
A note at the end of the press release stated: “Polymaker stock has been shipped out to the company’s global distribution hubs, so customers can be reassured that they will receive their orders promptly.”