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Enumclaw inventor alters 3-D print industry
Enumclaw resident Hugh Lyman retired as a business owner in 1996. It was the end of his time in the traditional workforce but it was the beginning of something entirely different.
Now, 17 years later, he is the winner of the Desktop Fabrication Competition and a game-changer in the 3-D printing industry.
The purpose of a 3-D printer is to layer plastic filament into specified dimensions, which creates the real-life version of blueprints set by the user. Inventors often use them to create product prototypes but many people enjoy the benefits of 3-D printing for everyday use. Lyman, for example, enjoys making bracelets for his wife.
“Everyone loves them so much that she keeps giving them away,” he said. “So I just keep making her more.”
The machines are available in desktop versions for less than $500, although industrial models cost a great deal more. The real problem with 3-D printing is the high cost of filament. Similar to the inflation of ink for inkjet printers, Lyman said the maintenance cost of these machines is what labels them as irrational for most households.
Three companies teamed up to search for a suitable alternative to costly filament. Inventables, Maker Education Initiative and the Kauffman Foundation sponsored the Desktop Fabrication Competition. The competition urged makers and inventors to create a more affordable way to produce the plastic filament.
Lyman’s first entry was disqualified, but he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. His second entry proved to be an acceptable and efficient way to turn reasonably priced plastic pellets into 3-D printer filament. Instead of spending $50 per filament spool, the Lyman Filament Extruder II makes it possible to create the same amount of filament for $10.
“You don’t get where I’m at by giving up … I revised my entry and re-submitted it. The Lyman Filament Extruder II is what won the contest,” he said.
International recognition and inquiries are flooding Lyman’s inbox; interview requests have come in from Time, Forbes and other media outlets. He’s received congratulatory emails and product requests from countries around the world — Belgium, Spain, England and Germany, to name a few.
An inventor at heart, Lyman started creating things as a young child. He currently holds eight patents and has no thoughts of slowing down. Although he enjoys fishing and golfing, his golden years will be filled with more tinkering and inventing. In fact, a large portion of the award money has already been allocated to such pursuits.
Lyman said that there is always room for improvement; a new version of the Lyman Filament Extruder, which may possibly connect directly to a 3-D printer, is already in the works.