For the second year in a row, the Northwest Arkansas Startup Weekend returned to Fayetteville to bring entrepreneurs and innovators to the northwest corner of the state.
This year’s events were held at the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, and it was once again organized through Techstars Startup Weekends, an international company that has put on similarly styled events in more than 150 countries around the world. The signature sponsor of the event was Fayetteville’s own Startup Junkie.
The NWA Startup Weekend is designed to foster education for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
The first day’s events included pitching ideas, listening to guest speakers and forming teams to work on the creation of prototypes of those ideas. Teams began building early in the morning, and save for a few breaks for lunch, dinner and one-on-one coaching from some special guests, worked well into the night.
The final day some last minute revisions and final touches were applied, and then the big winners of the weekend were selected by a three-judge panel consisting of Dylan Enright, of the XX Fund, Rebecca Black of RevUnit and Meagan Bowman with OneStone.
Best Design: Flip
The Flip design team was led by Canon Reeves, founder of MORE Technologies and a junior at the UA. He was joined by Nick Seward, Kaushik Ramini, Rex Hearn and Peyton Smith. They created a 3D printer designed to, as he says, “make a ‘flip-ton’ of stuff in a short amount of time.”
What sets Flip apart from a standard 3D printer is the output it can provide. Instead of a limited printer with only one head, Flip uses multiple heads – as many as 16 in total. Since all the heads operate on a grid, they all produce the same thing at the same time. This significantly reduces the amount of time required to mass produce a particular product.
It may sound fairly straightforward and simple, but the idea and execution were far from it.
“On top of the technical challenges (is the 3D printer) needs to be easily serviced and capable of running non-stop for days at a time,” Reeves says. “Luckily, we have a good bit of experience using 3D printers in a production environment. Our company, MORE Technologies, makes 3D printed robot kits that teach tech and problem-solving skills to the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and engineers. We built a ‘farm’ of 3D printers in the fall of 2018 and have since then been thinking about ways to improve it.”
They had the idea for Flip on a road trip earlier this year in what was initially just a way for them to scale 3D printing as a manufacturing method. They quickly realized that if they were having the same problems, other companies probably were as well. The NWA Startup Weekend solidified that belief, and now they are on to the NSF I-Corps Summer Program at the UA to develop their first prototype with some of the program’s provided funding.
“As of now our plans are to design, build and test Flip within our own company while also exploring if there would be a market for it outside of us,” Reeves says.