“What you see here is a prelude to the future,” said Joseph Sinclair of his Innovation Park office. In the last year and a half, Sinclair started a rapid prototyping business, advanced it to the point that it can support itself, and yet he still has a few months left in his undergraduate career.
Two and a half years ago, Joseph Sinclair received his first 3-D printer. “I’d had my 3-D printer for a while, but I’d never thought to use it to make money,” he said. One year after receiving the printer, Sinclair attended a career fair and had only limited success. The junior decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I’ll do it for myself instead of for someone else.”
The “prelude” to Solid Dynamics was a dorm-run business called Joe’s Rapid Prototyping. By December of last year, Sinclair had three 3-D printers running in his dorm room. He knew he needed a change when his room started smelling like plastic. Sinclair decided to rent space, purchase commercial software licenses, and form an LLC.
Since then, Sinclair has expanded to use more printers, printing at higher qualities. He has also hired three other students to work as contractors.
Sinclair says he particularly enjoys being able to pay employees for their work, in that he is able to share his success with others.
“I’ve already tasted success in doing what I love. It would be difficult to go back to sitting in a cubicle.”
Though he is one of Lion Launch Pad’s NL3 co-working Members this semester, Sinclair has not had any previous experience at the New Leaf Initiative downtown. He hopes to use the space to further develop his Research and Development projects, investigating new materials and new opportunities.
In addition to Solid Dynamics’ day-to-day business, Sinclair is pursuing other projects, as well. He plans to “forward-fit” an older machine to 3-D print metal, built at a significantly smaller expense than other models on the market. He has already built what he calls his “presentation box”– an entire rapid prototyping kit in one portable box, complete with computer, software, and (of course) the printer.
Sinclair says he has other projects in the works, too, though the details are ones he is not ready to share — yet.
But business itself is flourishing. Sinclair says one of his biggest challenges right now is having to turn away customers because he is so busy. He already has a reputation around State College, and he has worked with fellow-student-start-ups, including Vortic.
The day may come, Sinclair says, when other rapid prototyping businesses try to move in on State College — but after working so hard to break into the space, Sinclair plans to put up a good fight.
Sinclair shares a piece of advice with entrepreneurial students who aren’t sure about which direction to choose:
“Pick something that is cheap to get into, but so technically oriented that no one else will want to do it.” Sinclair learned all the in’s and out’s to operating and repairing his printers — a skill that took thousands of hours and has paid off immensely.