Andy Tran and his Millebot company will compete at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
It’s easy to have an idea. Making that idea into something real is another thing entirely.
Andy Tran has had an idea for Millebot, a large-scale 3-D printing company, for time now. He found himself unsatisfied with traditional manufacturing techniques after graduating University of Central Florida with engineering knowledge and a degree in business and marketing nearly a decade ago.
While he was initially impressed with 3-D printing, found that the printers were often too small for what he was going for. He founded Millebot in 2016 to supply a large-scale printing platform for construction, aerospace engineering, material sciences and other industries.
Tran will get the chance to share his company’s product to others during the 11th annual SXSW Pitch competition running from March 9 to 10 in Texas.
The SXSW competition is fierce - there will 50 different technology companies pitching their unique designs and innovations to a live audience and panel of expert judges in the hopes of being recognized and possibly securing funding.
Luckily, Tran will be pitching a big project of his own - the MilleHDX-Series Large 3-D Printer Platform, which is built to handle 3-D industrial printing needs. Tran will give a one-minute pitch to judges and, if all goes well, will then deliver a longer pitch on the completion’s main stage later in the weekend.
“Not only do we have a physical product, it’s a big product,” Tran said. “There’s the quote ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’, ours is ‘Be so big they can’t ignore you’, you literally can’t walk by without taking a second glance.”
There’s a large, unmistakable feature that Tran believes makes his 3-D printer stand out - the receptacle in which it’s contained. The Millebot - short for Modular Integrated Local Logistics Engine - is housed in a 20.0' by 8.5’ by 8.0' foot shipping container.
It’s all for a greater emphasis on adaptability. Tran designed his container/printer hybrid to be as accessible as possible for interested parties who may not have the infrastructure to manufacture materials of their own. The printer itself - called ‘Mille’ for short by staff - is mounted to the container’s ceiling and supported by brackets and rails.
“The container is really in a ‘Goldilocks Zone’,” Tran said. “There are always going to be smaller machines and there’s always going to be bigger machines. But the shipping container is the universally adopted size of 20-foot, 40-foot and even 50-foot systems … all the roads from around the world, ships, trucks, trains, they’re designed to use this box. It makes economies move.”
Another focus for the Millebot printer is the three-access platform which can integrate existing toolhead for different industries. Tran said an engineer can make aerospace or engineer parts out of plastics while an architectural figure can use a different toolhead to print with cement, motor or clay.
The Millebot company will also have a booth at the SXSW Spotlight area where Tran and other staff will be speaking to some of the event’s many visitors.
“When I was younger, I never knew the value I could bring into the world,” Tran said. “I’d always be behind the scenes, sitting in the back. As I grew, I realized some of the things I worked on could make an impact and I could learn more about myself in the process … To me, building Millebot is an enlightening process. I become more of who I know I am, plus I can physically see it.”