Entrepreneur spots a need and uses 3D printing to start a very cool business.
Steve Mara loves to surf. He loves it so much that he moved from the Midwest to San Diego 5 years ago so he could surf every day.
A couple of years ago, Steve noticed a new trend: pro surfers playing with different ways to hold their GoPro cameras while surfing.
Until then, GoPro cameras had been attached to the nose of the surfboard with the camera pointing back at the surfer. This produced fun video clips, but the focus was on the surfer, not what the surfer was seeing and experiencing.
Steve noticed pro surfers rigging their own mouth mounts, sometimes just biting on a piece of plastic or foam they attached to the GoPro. It wasn’t comfortable, but it delivered great surfing shots from inside “the barrel.”
Last summer, Steve talked with some of his engineering friends, who thought it wouldn’t be too difficult or expensive to manufacture a mouth mount. Encouraged, and liking the idea of a challenge, Steve decided to move forward.
His starting point was a silicone scuba mouthpiece attached to the custom mount piece. Another friend drew up a rough design in SolidWorks, and Steve began to search for a place to 3D print a prototype. Brick and mortar print shops in his local area were too expensive, and online possibilities had too long of a turnaround time for an eager entrepreneur who wanted to hold the prototype in his own hands, as soon as possible.
Steve has a smart girlfriend, who told him the public library had a free 3D printing lab and didn’t even charge for the filament! Although library policy only allowed people to print items they designed themselves, they allowed Steve to print his friend’s design one time. It took two hours to print, the time was well-used since the lab assistant taught Steve about 3D printing and design.
Finally, Steve was able to take the printed prototype home and test it with his GoPro. A fast learner (during those two hours waiting in the library 3D printing lab), Steve was able to make some major modifications using several different editing programs. His new prototype used much less filament and considerably less time, about 45 minutes. A couple more tweaks and it was time to “go pro,” with a professional design and manufacturing.
For the design, Steve turned to oDesk.com and for a modest sum was able to get a professional design with the exact measurements he needed. After 3D printing that design successfully, it was time to manufacture the product. The final product is made from polycarbonate to make it as durable as possible.
And now, with the help of 3D printing for his prototypes, Steve has been able to make his idea a concrete reality. Just 9 months into his business, he has already sold hundreds of mouth mounts!
Check out the videos on Steve’s website, http://hostevie.com/shop/gopro-mouth-mount.html, taken with the GoPro Mouth Mount. Steve’s friends are riding the waves, and you can almost feel the surf as you take an exciting and beautiful ride with them from your armchair!
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