Kodak has licensed its brand to a new company, Smart International, which is intending to sell a 3D printer, the Portrait, plus a range of filaments under the Kodak name, though Kodak itself doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this device. Does this mean that Kodak is giving up on its own 3D printing aspirations?
The exact nature of the relationship between Kodak and Smart International is anything but clear. Information about the printers and materials is mostly hosted on a separate smart3d.tech website though some of the information on the filaments also sits on the main Kodak.com site. This includes a page listing the printer and filaments that has a disclaimer at the bottom of the page saying that all those products have been manufactured by Smart International.
So who are Smart International? The COO and co-founder, Demian Gawianski says that the printer and filaments are manufactured in Argentina, though his LinkedIn page suggests that he is currently based in the US. He claims that the company has developed and manufactured 3D printers “for about six years” though the company appears to have only been set up in the first half of 2016. Prior to setting up Smart International Gawianski was the founder and CEO of a language school teaching Spanish through Tango, according to his LinkedIn page. Meanwhile, the CEO and co-founder is Roberto Gawianski, who was the general manager at Novatech Solutions, which manufacture a range of electronics from smartphones and tablets to modems and hard disks. Before that he was the CEO of Plenitas, which was mainly involved in organizing medical tourism to Argentina and the CEO of Dentalia, which is a dental centre offering inplants.
The Portrait printer itself is a desktop device with a metal frame and a fully enclosed build chamber of 200 x 200 x 250mm, with a heated bed. It uses dual extruders, with 0.4mm nozzles. The electronic controls are all based on the Raspberry Pi 3, including the built-in Raspberry Pi camera. It’s possible to use third party materials though the website encourages the use of the Kodak-branded filaments. The device costs $2799 though there’s a pre-order price of $1819. The machine won’t ship until March 2018.
Smart International also claims to have developed its own range of materials, including ABS, Nylon and PLA filaments in a range of different colours, and all sold under the Kodak 3D Printing brand. Smart International claims that it has 65 years of experience in these products but Demian Gawianski later clarified that the filaments are manufactured by a partner, and that it is this unnamed partner that has the 65 years experience in manufacturing plastic monofilaments.
The filaments themselves are said to offer low moisture content, high melt flow index and precise diameter and roundness. The warranty terms on the FAQ page make clear that these materials are only for prototyping and modelling and not end-use parts, which was a surprise to read given that the Portrait printer is being advertised as a “reliable manufacturing system, capable of producing end-use parts in a wide variety of materials.” So, what could possibly go wrong?
The more interesting question is where does this leave Kodak? The company has talked in the past about using its materials science know-how to enter new, industrial markets, including 3D printing. Last year it announced that it had worked with Carbon to develop materials for its CLIP process, which is really aimed at the production end of the additive manufacturing market. But it’s hard to imagine that Kodak could both develop its own 3D materials for Carbon and license its brand name to someone else. I asked Kodak if this means that it’s abandoning its own aspirations to make 3D print materials, but apparently Kodak is unable to comment in the period before releasing its Q3 figures this week. Expect to see more on this story in the next few days.