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3D printing company opens new space in the Houston area

A Houston company just opened a new factory and community space, allowing anyone in the community access to 3D printing. Courtesy of re:3D

You now have access to large-scale 3D printers, thanks to re:3D. The Houston company opened its community space in its factory located next to the NASA Johnson Space Center in southeast Houston.

The company makes an affordable and customizable 3D printer, called the Gigabot, and has clients across industries in over 50 countries. Recently, re:3D introduced sustainable options, including printing using plastic waste. The 7,000-square-foot space opened to the public on Saturday, April 13, with free tours and mingling.

This unveiled area allows for anyone in the community to learn about the 3D printing process, tour the facility, attend social events or workshops, or even buy a printer or some of the company's merchandise.

"re:3D couldn't be more thrilled to connect with our neighbors and share our desire to grow in Houston," says Co-Founder and Catalyst Samantha Snabes in a release. "In addition to offering regular classes and tours, we're seeking feedback on how we support innovation in Houston whether it be partnerships, cross-activations, meetups or other creative connections."

re:3D launched in 2013 — Snabes and her co-founder, Matthew Fiedler, were involved at NASA before founding the company. The company hasn't taken any investment money and has bootstrapped for the most part, receiving $1 million from WeWork's Creator Award, a $250,000 NSF Phase I Grant, and some other pitch competitions. The team also received $40,000 equity-free funding from Parallel18 and $40,000 from Startup Chile. Last year, the company, which has a presence in Austin and completed MassChallenge Texas. The company has raised over $300,000 in a couple Kickstarter campaigns over the years.

The company's printer, called the Gigabot, is on display and able to be used in the newly opened space. Courtesy of re:3D

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Building Houston

 
 

5G could be taking over Texas — and Houston is leading the way. Photo via Getty Images

Based on one key measure, Houston sits at the forefront of a telecom revolution that could spark a regional economic impact of more than $30 billion.

Data published recently by the Texas Comptroller's Office points out that as of last November and December, Houston led all cities in Texas for the number of so-called "small cells." Small cells are a key component in the rollout of ultra-high-speed 5G wireless communication throughout the Houston area and the country.

As the Texas Comptroller's Office explains, small cells are low-powered antennas that communicate wirelessly via radio waves. They're usually installed on existing public infrastructure like street signs or utility poles, instead of the big communication towers that transmit 4G signals.

The comptroller's tally shows Houston had approved 5,455 small-cell sites as of the November-December timeframe. That dwarfs the total number of sites (1,948) for the state's second-ranked city, Dallas.

"Houston is in the vanguard of small cell permitting in Texas, and not just because it's the state's largest city; advocates have lauded its proactive approach to 5G. Other cities, particularly smaller ones, are lagging well behind," the Comptroller's Office notes.

According to CTIA, a trade group for the wireless communications industry, 5G holds the promise to deliver an economic impact of $30.3 billion in the Houston area and create 93,700 jobs. The group says industries such as health care, energy, transportation, e-commerce, and logistics stand to benefit from the emergence of 5G.

"Maintaining world-class communications infrastructure is a requirement for success in a rapidly changing global economy. Small cells and fiber technology are the key foundational components for network densification and robust 5G. Cities like Houston that have embraced the need for this infrastructure will see the benefits of 5G faster than others," Mandy Derr, government affairs director at Houston-based communications infrastructure REIT Crown Castle International Corp. and a member of the Texas 5G Alliance, tells InnovationMap.

Derr says leaders in Houston have embraced the importance of small-cell technology through "reasonable and effective" regulations and processes aimed at boosting 5G capabilities. Three major providers of wireless service — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — offer 5G to customers in the Houston area.

"More small cells and fiber provide greater and faster access for the masses, enabling the connectivity that is essential to our businesses today — whether it's accepting payments on a mobile card reader, completing a sale on the go, or reliably reaching consumers where they are," Derr says.

In a blog post, Netrality Data Centers, which operates a data center in Houston, proclaims that Houston is shaping up to be a hub of 5G innovation.

"Houston has always been on the frontline," Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a 5G roundtable discussion in 2019. "It is who we are. It is in our DNA. We are a leading city. We didn't wait for somebody else to go to the moon. Or to be the energy capital of the world. Or the largest medical center in the world. But you don't stay at the front if you don't continue to lead."

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