Lucas Sloan didn’t want his tech business to become just another cell phone repair shop.
Armed with a 3D printer and laser cutter, Lucas and his brother, David, started MadeBySloan in 2011 to laser-engrave customized colours and designs on phones (Their most elaborate design? A 24-karat gold plated iPhone). They received frequent requests for phone- screen repairs, which Lucas would accommodate, but hated doing. “I preferred the custom, creative side of things,” he says. One Halloween, he printed a wearable, 3D Halo helmet, and some cosplayers visiting the shop saw it and wanted their own custom props. “We started making cosplay pieces for people, and once we realized there was enough demand for 3D printing and custom work outside of the phone market, we started pivoting away from phones. Just fixing broken screens isn’t what we wanted to do.”
Since then, MadeBySloan has worked with businesses to design, 3D print and laser-cut custom products – everything from signage to elaborate prototypes. The Sloans were invited to compete with their creations on the “professional, robot fighting sport” show, BattleBots. “We built two combat robots and went down to Los Angeles and competed for two weeks in 2016,” Lucas says. “That was by far the biggest, craziest job we’ve done.”
When a certain George Takei shared a video of one of their partnerships on Facebook in December 2016 – a harmonica placed inside a Nintendo cartridge, called “blotendo” – “sales [of blotendo] quadrupled in a matter of hours, it was insane,” Lucas recalls. At the same time, MadeBySloan had just launched a product called Allcade, a plug-in game console in a retro-style cartridge that has the capacity to store thousands of games. A Kickstarter campaign for the console proved popular when it finished with 238 per cent ($23,848) of its target funding, and a review of the game on the popular tech website, Gizmodo, caused sales to double within a few days. MadeBySloan can manufacture four to six units per day.
Lucas is passionate about educating customers about 3D printing too. Drop in on “Maker Space Mondays” for free 30-minute consultations and discounts on 3D and laser printing. Need a bit more time? Lucas and the crew offer scheduled tutorials, too. “We see everyone from 12-year-old kids to older entrepreneurs who have an idea for a product and want to understand how 3D printing works so they can design files themselves instead of going to an expensive design firm,” he says.