fb-pixel Skip to main content

Plastic snails and other curios adorn Formlabs’ growing Somerville home

<?EM-dummyText [Drophead goes here] ?>

Matthias Hofmann, print process lead at Formlabs, had a beer while working near the office’s indoor climbing wall.
Matthias Hofmann, print process lead at Formlabs, had a beer while working near the office’s indoor climbing wall.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

If you ever find yourself visiting the Somerville offices of Formlabs Inc., don't be alarmed by all the snails. There might be 1,000 of them littered around the office, but they're not the slimy kind; these are made of plastic resin, a kind of mascot for the company whose 3-D printers can replicate just about anything.

It’s just one of the quirky touches that sets apart Formlabs’ offices, which have been steadily expanding over the past few years.

"Nonstop hiring," chief executive Max Lobovsky said. "Interviewing is like half of my job."

Like other startup digs, you'll find brightly colored floors and comfortable couches where some of the 140 employees can plop down to work. There is even an indoor climbing wall, and a friendly dog named Charlie roams the office.

Advertisement



But the real difference comes on the first and second floors of Formlabs' headquarters, where employees dig into hard-core engineering work on the company's printers and liquid resins that are used to create 3-D printed objects. This area is generally off-limits to visitors, especially the camera-carrying kind. But you can see the results in Formlabs' products, including a new kind of "castable" resin that can be used to create molds for fine jewelry.

The company's printers use a technology called stereolithography, which creates solid objects from special liquids that harden, layer by layer, when exposed to a laser. Formlabs says the technique lets its printers create much finer detail than some consumer competitors, which is why it markets the devices to serious artists, designers, and product engineers.

Formlabs doesn't disclose exact sales figures, but Lobovsky said the startup sells "many thousands" of its printers annually. At a $3,500 list price for the newest model, that roughs out to millions of dollars in annual revenues.

Customers continue to surprise Formlabs with the uses they find for its gear, such as the molds a university researcher made for realistic facial prosthetics and the French artist who produced a stop-motion animated film using only Formlabs-printed parts.

Advertisement



The movie, Lobovsky said, "involved probably printing more parts than we had printed as a company collectively at that time."


Curt Woodward can be reached at curt.woodward@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @curtwoodward.