RENO, Nev. — For more than a year, serial entrepreneur Van Tucker had been trying to resolve 3D printing issues for his Reno-based startup Solati Health, which fabricates and develops prosthetic solutions for amputees.
Specifically, Tucker was looking to speed up the process of printing molds for the company’s silicon liners, which are customized for the anatomy, needs and lifestyle of each customer. Solati, however, was printing the molds at a snail’s pace, taking roughly 12 hours per unit at the company’s facility.
“It wasn’t a feasible business model to run because no one’s in our office for 12 hours,” Tucker said. “And you need to monitor it or you may burn your building down or something. It was a thing we were working on and struggling on for like a year and a half.”
A chance encounter with a fellow entrepreneur changed all that.
In July, Tucker moved into the coworking space Reno Hive as partner and CTO of Lassen Ventures, a merger and acquisition advisory firm that also acts as an accelerator and incubator.
Quickly, Tucker recognized that fellow Reno Hive member Marc Magarin, founder of research and development firm Magarin Dynamics, owned multiple 3D printing machines.
What’s more, Magarin, who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, owned an orthotic 3D printer — the very kind of machine that could help Tucker’s business.
The odds of that, Tucker felt, were slim to none.
“It’s very small world,” said Tucker, sitting inside the expansive Reno Hive. “There are not that many people in the world that make orthotic 3D printers. You think about all the stars aligned to have a guy that makes an orthotic printer in the same coworking building that you are.”
As a result, in the span of a week, Magarin helped solve the 3D printing issue Tucker had been wrestling with for 18 months. Suddenly, the 3D printing time for Solati’s molds went from 12 hours to 4 hours thanks to Magarin’s help, allowing the company to print two molds a day.
“I was really familiar with their issue,” Magarin said. “I was lucky that they asked me to do a 3D printing project. I was like, ‘I can do that!’”
For Tucker, the collaboration with Magarin was a game-changer.
“We were very excited,” he said. “Because we pretty much went from not being able to do it, and now we’re able to offer it to our customers. We now have the service actually commercialized, so that people can send these files to us to print.
“The collaboration is key.”
To that end, Magarin said finding opportunities to collaborate with fellow creative thinkers and passionate entrepreneurs is what drew him into a coworking space like Reno Hive.
“I try to go around the Hive and talk to everybody, because we all do drastically different stuff here,” he said. “It’s a plethora of expertise that I don’t have, so I try to go and learn from everyone. And the option to collaborate is always there.”
Tucker’s managing partner at Lassen Ventures, Steven Bowen, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re growing very fast, and part of the reason for our growth, I think, is because of the people that are in here,” Bowen said. “It’s a really good, collaborative environment.”