Our Mission & Vision
ProductGraph was founded in 2014 as a result of a simple observation: digital fabrication holds great promise, but its still to hard to master all the different aspects of manufacturing. This led Scott Austin and Eric Schleicher to create the vision for a digital fabrication that is much smoother and more scalable due to the power of software. The ProductGraph platform is optimized for digital fabrication and connects what was previously disparate steps in the workflow. With our powerful software, the way that designs are created is transformed to allow increased re-use and the shopping/configuration experience is integrated into the workflow.
As a result, our mission is: Making it easy to make
Here's a video that shows our direction. This is what the future will look like with ProductGraph, in the not-too-distant future.
The Story Behind Our Story
In 2012, we were working at our first startup. Eric backed a 3D printer on Kickstarter. It ignited the creative making gene in the both of us. We began to dig into the world of digital fabrication. In addition to 3D printing, we became fascinated by subtractive manufacturing, especially CNC routers and laser cutters. These machines were becoming more available through shared shops like maker spaces, fab labs and hackerspaces. And the machines had the advantage of making things on the meter scale and could use wood, a renewable and relatively cheap and available material. So we started out designing products that interested us. Scott got started on roller derby rack to dry his sweaty gear after practice and Eric got started with a wall organization system to make his garage the envy of the neighborhood.
While we were both able to finish our projects and several others, we began to realize the many, many pain points that make it downright hard to learn all of the steps in digital fabrication. And to truly become proficient took more effort than a Master's degree.
What we saw was that the machines for digital fabrication have tremendous potential and are getting better all of the time. But the pain came in two areas, knowledge resources and software. Specific pains included:
- The need to learn multiple complex software packages including CAD and CAM.
- The need to learn how to do product design.
- The lack of available designs to start with and iterate on.
- The lack of documented best practices and tips and tricks.
- How transferring a design from one step to the next could result in losing information important to the manufacturing process that then had to be re-created.
- That today's geometric designs are not the optimal solution for the small batch manufacturing usually done with digital fabrication.
- And many more!
A couple of things we observed gave us hope and inspiration:
- Graph / algorithmic processes. In the past, product designs were geometries drawn in computers. These geometries had many restrictions and were only good for one particular use case. We're creating product designs that are actually graph-based software algorithms. This creates a more flexible design that can be used in a wide variety of use cases.
- As software people, we're fans of software's open source movement. Developers freely share their efforts in a give and take of code. This allows one piece of code created for one use case to be reused across many other use cases allowing the receiving developer to not have to reproduce that effort so they can work on new problems. In software, open proves the old adage that "a rising tide raises all boats."
- We started working out of a maker space. It gave us access to capable equipment we could have afforded on our own. And even more, it gave us access to like-minded people that we could learn from. Much of the education we have received in this space over the past couple of years has come thanks to the people we met at the maker space that were willing to take time out of their busy days to answer our questions and show us their best practices.
Here's the ProductGraph pitch presented by Scott Austin at the EvoNexus Demo Day on March 26, 2015. The company was named Obrary at the time.
Evo Nexus Alum
Product Graph is an alum of EvoNexus, a non-profit, technology industry association that works to accelerate the formation, growth, and success of the technology industry in Southern California.
In other words, we went through San Diego's premier startup accelerator.