The idea behind Metafold grew out of the co-founders’ consulting work with a major sportswear manufacturer.
Born from a geometry-focused consultancy that has worked with major architectural firms and retail brands, a Toronto-based software startup Metafold 3D wants to facilitate the design and 3D printing of complex parts by manufacturers.
Armed with CA$500,000 pre-seed funding from Vancouver-based investor Active Impact Investments, Metafold plans to use the capital to grow its team, grow its platform and support its beta launch later this month. this.
“I’m just thrilled to support people who are pushing those boundaries.”
-Elissa Ross, Metafold
The startup was founded in 2020 by a group of math, geometry, and architecture experts consisting of CEO Elissa Ross, CTO Daniel Hambleton, and COO Tom Reslinski. The trio decided to start Metafold while working at Mesh Consultants, a geometry consulting firm founded by Hambleton.
Mesh Consultants was working with a major sportswear manufacturer on a 3D printing-related project focused on using mesh geometry to improve athletic performance. Through this project, which is still ongoing, Ross, Hambleton and Reslinski learned just how difficult it was to execute complex geometry in 3D printing. “We started to realize it was a much bigger issue,” Ross told BetaKit in an interview.
Metafold hopes to support new applications for industrial 3D printing through its LightCycle platform. The startup says its patent-pending technology allows engineers to reduce the amount of hardware needed for products in energy management, medical, automotive, and consumer goods, and can also reduce the pre-processing, iteration and manufacturing time needed to produce some of the products.
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In the United States, manufacturing and transportation account for a significant portion of carbon emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The environmental impact of 3D printing, a form of additive manufacturing, is often lower than traditional manufacturing, in part because the process allows manufacturers to 3D print parts and goods locally, rather than ship them from around the world.
Metafold aims to enable incumbent producers to widely adopt 3D printing. The environmental and sustainability implications of this idea helped the startup land Active Impact as an investor, through the company’s second fund (which has since reached C$60 million with the addition of EDC). ).
Initially, Ross, Hambleton and Reslinski thought Metafold would be a hardware company. But as they studied the competitive landscape, the problem at hand and the pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, the trio soon realized that “the critical problem” was actually in the design stage. and chose to focus exclusively on software.
“We really identified this bottleneck on the design side,” Ross said. “There are hardware manufacturers that have these 3D printer factories, and they’re ready to make things, but there aren’t enough people designing things for 3D printing, because it’s is difficult.”
As Mike Winterfield, Founder and Managing Partner of Active Impact, puts it, Metafold aims to provide the “missing middleware” to connect traditional design software to 3D printers.
“There’s a lot of great design software out there, there’s actually vastly improved hardware…but there’s no easy way to transition your designs from traditional software to this hardware,” Winterfield told BetaKit in an interview.
Metafold sees potential in targeting manufacturers using 3D printing to manufacture “advanced technologies” in the cleantech, aerospace and medical sectors.
Ross expressed excitement about having Active Impact as a funder, describing the company as “a great fit” for Metafold because of its focus on clean tech and the expertise it brings. brings to the sales and fundraising fronts, given Metafold’s uniquely technical founding team.
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The startup’s pre-seed round, which it raised through SAFE, represents Metafold’s first venture capital funding to date. The company aims to raise a larger funding round in 2023.
Metafold also marks Active Impact’s first investment in a 3D printing company. For Active Impact, which typically invests larger sums in start-up companies with more employees, revenue and established customers, the company’s decision to take on a higher degree of risk and invest in Metafold at this stage is unusual.
“We really wanted to support that market,” Winterfield said. “We really wanted to be ahead with our choice of who we think will be a winner in the 3D printing space.”
Metafold aims to provide “the missing middleware” for 3D printing.
While Metafold isn’t the only company trying to solve this problem, Winterfield says the startup is ahead of the field in terms of the lattice structures it has and the transfer speed between design software and 3D printers. . “Where they have to catch up with their competition is in UI and UX,” he said.
Ross highlighted Metafold’s expertise in networks and metamaterials as a differentiator. The CEO also pointed out that unlike Metafold’s offering, which manufacturers can integrate with their existing tools, the other products available are often tied to specific hardware components.
Metafold did a little trial run of its software this spring and incorporated the feedback it gathered into a beta version that it intends to roll out before the end of August.
Ultimately, Ross is optimistic about the long-term potential of combining manufacturing with a focus on geometry. “I think 3D printing will impact everyone’s life through these kinds of advanced technologies that are currently being developed,” she said. “I’m just thrilled to support people who are pushing those boundaries.”
Feature image courtesy of Metafold 3D.