IEEE Member Wins $1 Million Award for Her 3D Printer Startup

The WeWork Creator prize will be used to fulfill her venture’s mission of printing with trash

19 January 2018

Member Samantha Snabes’ startup, re:3D, won a US $1 million WeWork Creator Award on 17 January in New York City. She made it past 6,000 applicants and more than 150 regional winners to become one of two finalists to receive the award from WeWork, which provides office space and resources to entrepreneurs in nearly 60 cities worldwide. The award supports innovative projects and the people behind them.

Snabes is the 2018 IEEE Entrepreneurship Initiative chair. Her company developed and manufactures the Gigabot, an industrial-strength printer that can produce objects about 30 times larger than leading desktop 3D printers. Gigabot has been used to print shoes for children in Kenya, PVC pipes to bring potable water to a Nairobi neighborhood, and insulated flooring for refugee shelters. It can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of industrial printers.

What made her product stand out to the judges was its potential to print with recyclable plastics, like those from water bottles, and eventually coffee cup lids and plastics that have been dumped into oceans.

Providing a testimonial for re:3D was Sebastian Vidal, executive director of Parallel18, a startup incubator in Puerto Rico. Vidal explained how the Gigabot printer has produced much-needed supplies for Puerto Ricans since Hurricane Maria tore through the island in September. He plans to reuse the hundreds of thousands of water bottles donated there to print more items.

STIFF COMPETITION

The judges were WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann; best-selling author Tim Ferriss, who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek; inventor Joy Mangano; Lisa Price, founder of beauty products company Carol’s Daughter; and Tamara Steffens, Microsoft’s general manager of business development.

The competition’s criteria included how a company is likely to scale, what impact it will have on the world, how the founders plan to use the prize money, and their responses to the judges’ questions.

J. Kevin White, executive director of Global Vision 2020, received the other $1 million award. The nonprofit venture provides eyeglasses for people in developing countries. A person flips through various strengths of lenses until they find the correct one, similar to an eye exam. Then the person seals the lenses to a 3D-printed frame.

Among the semifinalists were the startup Andiamo, which develops 3D scanned and printed orthotics for disabled children that are 65 percent lighter than traditional ones. Another, EyeControl, provides a wearable that helps patients that have conditions such as ALS to communicate and control devices through eye movements. And Byte Back teaches computer and IT skills to adults to help them launch a new career.

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