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July 02, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Prototyp3 takes root in TN, thanks to access to resources, space, and mentors

For a small business, access to resources, things, and people is critical,” Backstrom said. So, the team relocated to Knoxville.

It’s been about one year since Ian Backstrom and Greg Reesman picked up their lives in sunny California to move across the country to Knoxville. Some may wonder how the Scruffy City attracted two highly innovative individuals from Los Angeles, but Backstrom and Reesman just said it was a “natural fit” for their company.

Ian Backstrom

Prototyp3 is a 3D printing company utilizing advanced 3D creation technology to design, innovate, and manufacture products for everyday consumers, businesses, and government entities. They use advanced photo-real visualization software to create custom products for clients, allowing them to accelerate projects at any scale rapidly.

Additionally, the company is highly focused on sustainable practices, primarily using recycled materials to manufacture products, which is extraordinary and groundbreaking in 3D printing.

They can do large, medium, and small-scale 3D printing, creating everything from car, motorcycle, and RV parts to artistic displays (like the one featured at the Press Room).

The two grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They met when they were only six years old, became best friends, and spent their younger years creating things and building companies.

Greg Reesman

Their first start-up was a film company called New Edge Films, and it was a video production company that used cutting-edge equipment.

“We were filming with drones before they became publicly available because we would just build them ourselves,” Backstrom said. “Back then, there weren’t laws around small personal aircraft, so we would film in all sorts of places.”

They made money and used the cash flow to buy newer, better equipment. The highlight of that start-up was doing a spot feature for Fox Sports. Reesman and Backstrom were only high schoolers at the time.

While they had a good thing going for them, college put them on two separate paths. Backstrom pursued a degree at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Reesman began studying environmental science and engineering for energy sustainability at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

MJ Mayo

It was at ArtCenter where Backstrom met MJ Mayo. They began a 3D printing company out of Backstrom’s college garage and hustled their way through school with the funds made from print jobs.

That little garage shop would soon grow into Prototyp3, which Backstrom said is a much bigger mission than the original 3D printing concept. Backstrom and Mayo officially co-founded and launched the company in 2020.

“Prototyp3 is about giving a platform to discover and re-discover what is important. Nothing is ever done,” Backstrom said. “We call it Prototyp3 because we believe innovation is always evolving. We want to remain on the cutting edge of this industry, with the latest software, technologies, and processes.”

Soon after the company fully came to fruition, Reesman joined the team as the Director of Media and Technology, to help with design concepts and the photo realism side of things. Additionally, he brought his expertise in sustainability to help with Prototyp3’s commitment to using 100 percent sustainable materials when possible.

In the four years since the company’s launch, the founding team has stayed true to those roots. They’ve been both sustainable and adaptable.

“We make parts for several industries, which is so rare for a 3D printing company,” Reesman said.

But, resources started to become a stressor for the small 3D printing team nestled in the heart of Hollywood.

“For a small business, access to resources, things, and people is critical,” Backstrom said. “We had an engineer working for us remotely who lived in Knoxville. We came to visit, learned about the start-up community, saw the cost difference, and decided to make it our new home.”

Reesman nodded, adding “The opportunity cost is much better in Knoxville. As a small business, it’s more cost-efficient, and we’re closer to many of the material providers.”

The Prototyp3 team currently has a space in Able Trade in the Old City. They’ve been in town for about a year and are ready to dig into the Knoxville entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We are an ideas company that specializes in bringing them to real life,” Backstrom said. “And we are really happy to be in Knoxville.”

Read more about Prototyp3 on the website.

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