Fort Lauderdale Company Wants to Bring 3D Printers to Mars

If Grant Sadowski had his way, Matt Damon in The Martian wouldn’t have had to MacGyver trinkets for his survival on the red planet. Instead, he’d be taking it easy, sipping on margaritas out of a 3D-printed margarita maker.

“It would’ve saved Matt Damon a lot of time in The Martian,” jokes Sadowski, cofounder of Fort Lauderdale-based Becoming 3D. “With a 3D printer on Mars, you could print tools.”

Sadowski and his longtime friend-turned-business partner Matt Craine launched a startup in October 2013. Becoming 3D specializes in designing 3D printing solutions to meet a business's manufacturing needs —anything from more basic $700 printers for elementary schools to $1 million top-of-the-line printers for automobile engineers and even printers intended for human life on Mars. In fewer than three years, the company already has 11 employees on staff and has landed contracts across the country with dozens of schools, universities, and bigger companies like Motorola and Disney.

"We're 3D evangelists," Sadowski says. "We'll make sure you have the right machine, training, education to foster creativity and advancement."

The Mars Desert Research Station is located in the Utah desert. It simulates life on Mars. It's owned and operated by a nonprofit space advocacy group called Mars Society, which promotes research to bring human life to Mars. Crews take turns running experiments there,  and in fall 2015, Sadowski and Craine sent a 3D printer to the group to test how 3D printing would work on Mars.

"It could take years to send something to Mars," Craine explains, adding that a 3D printer on-site could allow astronauts to ready-make tools or parts they might need in any given situation. 
Sadowski and Craine met in 2004 in Fort Lauderdale. Sadowski had launched Mosaic Business Solutions, a successful 2D-printing business that managed the office printing needs of medium to large businesses. Craine worked as Senior Fantasy Sports Producer for CBS Sports and then launched a marketing company.

In 2011, Craine attended a 3D-printing conference for jewelry with a client in Las Vegas. A year later, Sadowski attended with him — except this time it was to figure out the intricacies of launching their own 3D printing business. The technology was so innovative; they were hooked. In October 2013, the pair invested hundreds of thousands to launch their startup.

Becoming 3D focuses on finding solutions for big manufacturers, like Motorola Solutions and Trividia Health. These use more sophisticated machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last month, students at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University used a 3D-printer to improve certain parts of a Formula 1 race car.

On the other end of the spectrum, Becoming 3D also focuses on bringing 3D printing to math and science education. It has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club, implementing more user-friendly printers that can print anything from chess pieces to Star Wars figurines. Sadowski and Craine have provided 3D printers to Port St Lucie High, Florida Atlantic University, Tallahassee Community College, Jacksonville State University, and the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale. They estimate that 75 percent of their business is in Florida.

Craine and Sadowski stress they're not mathematicians or engineers (Craine studied political science, Sadowski finance). They opened their offices in North Fort Lauderdale. 

"We learned slowly over time," Craine says. "When we were newbies we had never even seen a 3D printer."

They've recently segued into a third focus in 3D-printing consulting, providing insight to businesses looking to install a 3D-printing lab. They're currently speaking Frost Museum of Science in Miami and Metropolitan State University in Denver.

They're considering expansion to Colorado (where they currently have a small presence) and Texas.