OAKLAND -- HoneyBee3D printing opened its doors to business recently at 6127 La Salle Ave., putting Montclair Village on the cutting edge of technology.
The shop is the first of its kind in Northern California and only the eighth in the United States, said owner Liza Wallach, who opened HoneyBee3D with her husband, technologist Nick Kloski, who has worked at Sun Microsystems and Oracle.
3-D printing creates solid objects from digital images through a process of layering materials in different shapes to create the desired object. This process is already used in a variety of industries, from aerospace to manufacturing, art and architecture and even medicine.
"You can print anything from a house to a kidney," Kloski said.
The printers are open-faced structures, about 2 feet in height and 18 inches in width, and will print a type of plastic called polylactic acid, commonly known as PLA, Kloski said. The material is created by corn byproducts and is nontoxic and biodegradable.
"A single spaghetti-like string of plastic filament is fed into a heated chamber and comes out of the nozzle as a thin molten line of plastic," he explained.
The store currently has three printers but is expecting to add three more within the coming months. HoneyBee will work with customers to help turn their ideas into a 3-D print from a verbal description or hand drawing, Wallach added. HoneyBee3D also will offer classes designed to teach the ins and outs of 3-D printing. The store will also sell 3-D printers and accessories, as well as offer printing services.
"There is a lot of pent-up interest and demand in the Bay Area," Wallach said. "We want the Apple store experience: clean, knowledgeable and very user-friendly."
"I'm glad they're here," said Chris Ulbrich, a Montclair resident. "My (6-year-old) son loves to draw and build. I believe by the time he is a teen he will be building with this. It's a stroke of luck that we have this in our backyard."
"3-D printing has major advantages for manufacturers," Wallach said. They will be able to test markets for their products, without making the cash outlay to produce their products. Plus you can modify your prototype as you go."
However, 3-D printing is unlikely to take over traditional manufacturing, Wallach said, but would instead hybridize it. Mass production will remain cheaper than making products by 3-D printing, but printing to order to test a market before going into production offers definite advantages. Many people have ideas about what they want to create, Kloski said. Now they can.
"There are a lot of entrepreneurs here," Wallach said.
HoneyBee 3D caters to "anyone selling anything which benefits from a physical representation," she said.
3-D technology has been around since the 1970s but key patents expired in 2009, making the technology more accessible, Kloski said.
Wallach, a jeweler by trade, owned Liza Sonia Jewelry, located on La Salle at the same address for 10 years, when she stumbled across 3-D printing, which is perfect for jewelry designers. Although her jewelry business was successful, Wallach decided to change professions.
"Making jewelry wasn't my soul's work," Wallach said. "People have to feel creativity to grow. This will grow with me. I outgrew jewelry."
Kloski worked 18 years in Silicon Valley for Sun Microsystems and for Oracle.
"I wanted to be in touch with people," he said. "In a big company, you are distant from people."
Kloski finds it rewarding to help people realize their dreams and give people a way to create. Wallach is named after her great grandmother, Liza, who was born and raised on La Salle Avenue, and she comes from a family of entrepreneurs.
"In my family, owning your own business was a given. I can start a business like that," Wallach said. "When you are the only game in town, it's cool."