EMERGING LEADERS DANNY HUIZINGA / OCTOBER 6, 2014 3-D PRINTING GIVES HOPE TO DETROIT The Manulith Team (from right, Mike Moceri, Trevor Fitzgerald, Peter Rohles) / Photo: Danny Huizinga

Mike Moceri was a freshman in college when he first became interested in 3-D printing from a video he saw on the Internet. Today, Moceri runs Manulith, a 3-D printing and design company based in Detroit, Michigan.

At first, Moceri couldn’t afford a 3-D printer, so he bought the parts and built his own. With this machine, Moceri created 3-D portraits of people at exhibitions by using new 3-D scanning technology.

“The company prints 3-D models for whatever customers need. On the day I stopped by, they were printing everything from a model of a new house to fixtures on a chandelier.”

Moceri soon joined with a few business partners and started a store in Chicago. “We opened the world’s first publicly-assessible 3-D printing facility,” he said. “It was like 3-D Kinko’s.”

But soon, Moceri wanted to get more involved in developing 3-D printing services for small businesses and larger projects. This led to Manulith, which he describes as a “full-fledged pipeline service – from initial conception of the idea all the way to actual manufacturing.” To save customers time and money, Manulith cuts out many of the middlemen that are usually involved in the process of designing a product.

A product design takes place through various stages of development, each requiring different skills and resources. You need an expert in market research and data mining to get the prospects of the product. Then you need a technical specialist to design the product, followed by quality control and quality analyst, and sales executive finally making it available as Bitcoin Loophole, for instance. The materials of the building, appearance, cover design, certificate prints and so on, each step can be done by an individual specialist, thereby incurring separate expenses.

Manulith offers an advantage over other 3-D printing companies because they help with the design process so that someone with no technical experience can work with the team to get their idea printed. Manulith is even developing a system that will let customers view and manage every step of the design, production, and billing process to improve efficiency and communication.

The company prints 3-D models for whatever customers need. On the day I stopped by, they were printing everything from a model of a new house to fixtures on a chandelier.

They even scanned my head. It’s surprisingly easy. You simply sit on a chair in front of what looks like an Xbox Kinect bar but is actually a 3-D scanner. As you spin around, the camera downloads your head into Manulith’s design program.

It’s an exciting feeling to watch this new business take shape in a city that has been plagued by severe economic troubles.

Moceri grew up in the Detroit area, and he recognizes that there is a negative feeling associated with the city because of the recent problems. But he sees a lot of positive energy and hope in the Motor City.

“I always knew in my heart that I wanted to bring something back to Detroit,” said Moceri. “I just didn’t know it would be so soon.” One of his favorite things about it so far? The business community is tight-knit, and there are a lot of people working hard to make the city grow “out of the ashes.”

Moceri has always wanted to be an entrepreneur. At 17, he had already started his first company. He realized quickly that he enjoyed helping other people create things.

But he said the hardest thing for most entrepreneurs is finding good people. Moceri recommends that new business owners look for people that share their passion and capacity for hard work

“It’s a very hard thing to start a company,” said Moceri. He had plenty of 18-hour days. “When the pressure is on, you can’t curl up and die. You have to fire up your engines and run on all cylinders.”

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EMERGING LEADERS JOBSTechTown Detroit Jump Starts Small Businesses

Detroit – not exactly the first city that comes to mind when you think of innovation.

TechTown Detroit aims to change that. Operating from a renovated industrial building that used to be home to Chevrolet Creative Services (where the Corvette was designed), TechTown offers business acceleration services and a collaborative workspace for new entrepreneurs.

“When I originally came back to Detroit, I was looking for a place that would be well-suited to run our business,” said one entrepreneur who has been in the space for almost four months. “TechTown has been the best resource I could ask for.”

“But TechTown does more than just run a collaborative workspace. TechTown wants to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.”

The opportunity to interact with investors, other entrepreneurs, and community leaders is what sets TechTown apart.

“The real value is building a community and having people be able to support each other more organically,” said Isaac Gilman, a project manager for TechTown. “We have a diverse community – everything from a 3-D printing company to social media companies to an attorney.”

Part of this is thanks to Junction 440, a business that runs the coworking space of the TechTown building. For a monthly membership fee, entrepreneurs can have 24/7 access to a dedicated desk, office, and conference rooms. This allows new business owners to have benefits like mail service and meeting rooms that would not be possible otherwise.

But TechTown does more than just run a collaborative workspace. TechTown wants to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. They hold monthly networking events to encourage connections among business leaders in Detroit.

TechTown also wants to provide mentors that can “assess businesses, develop strategies, and offer advice, lessons learned and industry best practices to help each of our entrepreneurs succeed in the marketplace.”

Gerald Roston, an executive in residence, has been at TechTown since it first opened in 2004. He has seen many different people and businesses pass through the space, but he always tries to get to know them and give advice from his years of experience building several tech-focused startups.

“I think that’s one of the differentiators,” said Roston. “TechTown is more focused on the community.”

TechTown is trying to branch out into Detroit as well. “There is a lot of economic development that happens in the core of the city. So we decided to take our business acceleration to the neighborhoods and help them,” said Marielle Temkin, TechTown’s marketing and communications coordinator.

TechTown’s SWOT City program engages Detroit neighborhoods and aims to help them with economic development, health and safety, and civic engagement. So far, TechTown is involved in six neighborhoods – and hopes to expand as time goes on.

The goal? To create “a liveable and walkable community with the support infrastructure necessary for businesses and residents to thrive in the place they call home.”

TechTown Detroit may be just what the Motor City needs to jumpstart its economy and regain its glory.