Mcor Chief Marketing Officer, Deirdre MacCormack has gained transatlantic experience with companies such as Panavision New York, Golden Books Entertainment, Carlsberg, Vodafone and Cadburys in a variety of marketing roles. Deirdre brings a wealth of experience and a highly regarded reputation in marketing including social marketing, public relations, website marketing, content, events, sales enablement and lead generation. Deirdre has been CMO since 2006 and has successfully launched three flagship products and brought Mcor to success in several business/marketing awards. Deirdre herself scooped silver in the 2015 Stevie Awards for Women in Business, in the category of Female Executive of the Year – Business Products. Deirdre holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing and the Conlon Memorial Gold Medal Award for outstanding achievement in her Masters of Science in Advertising degree from Dublin Institute of Technology. Deirdre is Deputy Chair on the Fab Foundation Ireland (FFI) board.
Deirdre, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing and a Masters of Science in Advertising. I traveled quite a lot during my studies so once finished I was New York-bound where I held a variety of marketing roles in companies such as Panavision New York and Golden Books Entertainment. I also worked in the advertising industry on accounts such as Carlsberg, Vodafone, and Cadburys.
Truth be known I was born with an entrepreneurial streak – my Father managed his own business for over 50 years and I was always inspired by his vision, drive and work ethic. I love the idea of starting something from scratch and nurturing, building it up and making a difference. I spent my summers in between college years in the US working – managing a small business that was very profitable – I had seen the power of an opportunity, drive, and a good work ethic – I was hungry for more!
So when Conor presented his idea for a 3D printer to me I felt this could be the idea that we would drive all the way. I conducted market research in Ireland, US, and the UK. The results were overwhelming – there positively was a need and desire for a paper-based printer (some of the respondents in this research became our first customers!). Conor and Fintan worked on the concept for about two years part-time – and when I talk about our first in-house machine, well it was actually in my house! Although I am not from a technical background I was immersed in every step of product development. We then came to a fork in the road – do we leave our jobs and do this full time?
I was pregnant with my second child at the time and I said to Conor, ‘let’s go for it’ – it was a gamble, we were leaving good, well paid jobs, raising debt and entering the unknown! But armed with a vision of bringing professional-quality 3D printing to the masses. I often say I have a sort of ‘irrational optimism’ which sees far beyond any problems and to the end goal. As a founder, this is a key ingredient.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
When your husband is an engineer/inventor you are usually privy to the most interesting technologies around! Being exposed to the latest technologies becomes a way of life. But more than that Conor (and his brother Fintan) had always been ‘inventing’, sketching out new ideas and brainstorming the next big thing. Think ‘Big Bang Theory’ but with a commercial twist.
Following his PhD in the early 2000s Conor was working in Trinity College and on a European project involving the A380 -during this time he had a lot of exposure to 3D printing but had identified a ‘problem’ in the 3D printing market. Here we have a technology which was around for over 30 years but had remained niche and exclusively in the hands of large companies and big universities and had not filtered down into more of a mass market – this peaked my interest! So, what was the problem? Extremely high running costs – the materials used in these 3D printers at the time were as expensive as gold! The solution, a printer with zero running costs, or as close as possible to this to give proper access to a greater audience.
When Conor first introduced me to the concept I was hooked. And when he told me about his idea to produce a printer with extremely low running costs I was very excited – with my marketing hat on I could see the gap in the market for sure. I proceeded with some primary market research and this verified that if we could build it they would come!
For us, it was more than a business idea it was a chance to make a difference because the market needed disrupting and the potential to really change the 3D printing world was huge.
You are a Co-founder and the Chief Marketing Officer at Mcor Technologies. For those unfamiliar with Mcor Technologies printers, could you share about the innovation behind the machines?
Mcor offers the only line of paper based 3D printers in the world: Back in the early 2000s, the materials used in 3D printing made the technology almost prohibitive. So what is a low cost, safe, readily available material – the answer is PAPER! We really wanted to disrupt the market. All our competitors were making so much money on their consumables this really was something different – almost an inverted razor and blade business model so to speak. This was the genesis for our first printer, The Mcor Matrix.
Mcor is also a leader in full colour 3D printing: With a DPI of 4800×2400 and offering 2 million colours we lead the way in full colour 3D printing technology. Our solution is also low cost reliable and safe, enabling 3D printing to jump the chasm to reach a broader range of creative professionals, truly facilitating creative learning.
See below some of the milestones on our journey from 2002 to present –
- The Mcor Matrix
We had been working in stealth mode for a few years before the official launch of our first product, the Mcor Matrix. I knew that we had a very unique offering and positioning this product was all about ‘telling the story’. And bearing in mind that in these early days of the business, resources were scarce but it was essential that Mcor made an immediate impact in a marketplace dominated by two main players. So, at TCT 2008 we took a small stand, divided it in two and implemented some guerrilla marketing tactics – pre-registration was required in order to see the printer – I dropped pre-registration cards in the main hotel and asked the receptionist to put these in each paper delivered to all the delegates rooms on the first day of the show. Hey Presto – this created the hype I was looking for and the Matrix was the printer everyone was talking about! I also issued a press release and we received our first coverage. But even better these column inches induced 2 million hits on our website in 10 days which crashed our server! But the sales inquiries followed, 1000s of them – from Boeing to IBM but we had yet to get full production in place!
- The Mcor IRIS
We pre-launched the Mcor IRIS at RAPID 2012 – at this event, we were awarded the Best Exhibitor Innovation Award by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) beating off Stratasys for their Mojo and 3D Systems for their ProJet 850. This gave great credibility to what we were doing – it has always been a David and Goliath situation and we have always punched above our weight! We officially launched the Mcor IRIS later that year at EuroMold 2012 – this was equally as exciting because at that time there was only one other manufacturer offering full colour. Not only that but the IRIS was offering the highest quality colour at a low cost and with full eco-friendly credentials. This launch was coupled with news of our partnership with Staples and there was an explosion of interest in the IRIS – again we were inundated!
- The Mcor ARKe
We launched the Mcor ARKe at CES 2016 – the world’s first full colour desktop 3D printer. Again we won Best of Innovation for this product which gave us winner status straight out of the blocks. The coverage at this launch was again phenomenal with Fortune magazine taking the exclusive. Having a unique product offering has always helped to position our products in a very powerful way – subsequently, the innovation has been rewarded, coverage is widespread and demand is abundant. I have not always had a big marketing budget so I had to be resourceful and creative with what I had – I think this paid off and created edgy marketing campaigns that helped us stand out – we have won a couple of marketing awards too which recognize this, most notably the 3D Print Show Brand award.
How did you come to build the company?
Mcor started in the front room of my house and from there grew and took on a life of its own! I often say Mcor is my third child (I also have two girls) and like that we have nurtured it and willed it into existence. As they say mighty oaks from little acorns grow!
But also, I think we never lost sight of the ‘Why’ – why we started the business in the first place – kind of the vision that inspired us to keep going. That vision was always widely accessible 3D printing – ‘A 3D Printer for Everyone’.
But building a company from scratch is also a rollercoaster ride because it is full of highs and lows but once you are on the ride you need to hold on tight and commit. And as hard as the journey is, it’s exhilarating!
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman entrepreneur in 3D Printing?
- Being a Woman in 3D Printing
When I started in this industry, females were few and far between. Back then it was Rachel Park, Ann Marie Shillito…….not many leading females at all. Thankfully things have changed and thanks to groups like Women in 3D Printing, not only are there more women but they are consolidating their position in the industry. Like in most industries there is a tendency to ‘not be taken seriously’ because you are female. This is particularly true if you opt to dress in a feminine fashion. I feel particularly strong about not having to dress like a man to be taken seriously. We should be able to embrace our femininity whilst still leading the way in our industry.
- Being a Woman in Business
Firstly, I feel my experience in this industry at C-level might be slightly different than others rising through the ranks at other companies. I am a founder, I left a well-paid professional job to set up a startup. My route to C-level in Mcor was certainly different but not without challenges.
On our journey over the last 13 years, I have encountered prejudice because I am female and related to the other founders. Investors, bankers, and board members can all be skeptical of your ability, viewing that you are there on a free ride. If anything, I have worked harder because I am always justifying my worth and my position.
Anecdotally, in the early days when Conor and I were fundraising, we would often only use our first names to distract from the fact that I was Conor’s wife. Unfortunately, the view is that you are only there because you are the ‘wife’ not because you are a business person in your own right.
But I have always been keen to promote females in industry and so I am part of two women’s networks – the WXN Executive Network and Women in Business. These groups are inspiring and make you realise that together we are strong and can do a lot to motivate women to keep striving for more. These groups also host awards for women in business and I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of a few awards including a Silver Stevie Award for Women in Business, in the category of Female Executive of the Year – Business Products. This can only help inspire young women in this industry and others to keep pushing – I like to quote Yoda here – “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” I am also an active board member of Fab Foundation Ireland and it gives me great pleasure to use my skills to help develop this organisation. In this environment I am respected for my experience and knowledge despite my gender.
To add to that, I believe the media have very often been forthcoming at hearing my voice – I have been asked to participate in panels and interviews in a bid to show diversity. We need to see more of this so that’s why this interview is a great opportunity to see what we women are doing and what we are capable of!
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
- In 2009 we were nominated for a World Technology Award. The awards were a black-tie affair held in New York and we came runner up to Amazon for their kindle reader. Funny part is there was 4 of us in the company at the time!
- I constantly get a kick out of letting people guess what the material is when they come on to our booth – you will get resin, plastic….never paper. Then you say it’s made of paper and they then ask again but ‘What’s this made from?’ There is complete disbelief!
- To say I am passionate about 3D printing is an understatement and from the beginning, I completely immersed myself in the technology. So much so when I talk about it very often people will ask me what kind of engineer I am!! Conor gets a great laugh out of this – must be all the years of listening to him has rubbed off!
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
From a humanitarian point of view, I would have to say some of the medical applications for 3D printing are life-changing. 3D printing prosthetics is one of those applications that simply changes lives and the eNABLE community is doing wonderful things to provide prosthetics for those who may never have had the opportunity to avail of one. We helped a local little girl who at the age of 3 suddenly realized that she could not do some of the things that she really wanted to – skipping and pushing her scooter without a fully formed hand. Just to see the smile on her face and the impact that a 3D printed prosthetic had on her life makes you realise the power of 3D printing in these real human stories.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
There are many game-changing technologies but I will always be mesmerized by full colour 3D Printing. In so many ways it is the holy grail!
To see a full colour print coming off a 3D printer in any colour, sharp resolution, no bleed is awesome. And more to the point it adds such value to the prototyping market and the importance of prototyping to the product development cycle cannot be overstated as it presents an invaluable tool for speeding the time to market.
Full colour also lends itself well to consumer-friendly manufactured objects so it also has the potential to reach consumers with meaningful applications for them. I will always remember being at the AMUG conference with our first full colour 3D printer, the Mcor IRIS: During the course of the conference our IRIS was on display as were our full colour 3D printed parts – many of the attendees were very impressed with the quality of our 3D models but what took us back the most was the reaction of one of the ladies from the catering staff. She approached our booth and pointed to the 3D printed photograph in the cabinet and said, “does this mean that I could feel the faces of my grandchildren every day?” It turns out that she lived far from her family but she could see the power of 3D printing for her by looking at the 3D photograph. Right there and then I realised that 3D printing can touch all of our lives especially if it is an application that is relevant to us. And in consumer terms full colour 3D printing is critical.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As a business person?
Of all the emerging technologies 3D printing has the most potential to revolutionize our lives. From industry to space travel to replacement parts to how we document our memories 3D printing will play a part. It is also part of a much larger growing eco-system which collectively has the power to touch all our lives. The 3D printing industry is evolving all the time, new innovations, technologies, software, players – we are on the crest of a wave and it is wonderful to be part of it.
- As a woman?
In the 13 years that I have been involved in the 3D printing industry, I can safely say that I have been the only woman in the room on many occasions! Gladly this is changing slowly as the industry matures. And I would go far as to say we have turned a corner in terms of seeing more women at the top in this industry.
Being part of a progressive industry is inspiring and I would like to see more key women in senior leadership roles in 3D printing and on panels as this will positively encourage other females to join 3D printing organisations. We also need more women on boards – this is the seat of power and visibility in these positions will stimulate more activity and promotion.
I also think 3D printing has the potential as a technology to draw more girls into STEM learning and so into studying STEM subjects which will certainly help in getting more women into tech roles and in turn break the cycle of a male-dominated industry. I believe that by breaking down our subject-based silos through technology like 3D printing, we can foster a greater culture of creativity, independent thinking, and innovation which is not gender-centric. The 3D printing industry could lead the way in being more diverse in who it attracts!
Women in 3D printing is certainly playing its part here and I am excited about being involved!
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today?
Over the past 5 years, we have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride during which we have seen 3D printing hit the heights of the hype and the depths of disillusionment. There was a time when if the printer did not fit on a desktop and extruded plastic then it just was not relevant. Industry analysts were bullish on the adoption of the technology; we were fed a future with a 3D printer in every home and major retailers began selling them online and in stores.
Fast forward to today and we see the industry swing in completely the opposite direction – if it’s not 3D printing for production and direct manufacturing then the analysts, investment community, and media are not as interested! If it is not 3D printing a part of a jet engine, then it’s not worthy! It would seem that the prototyping market is now the poor relation in the industry despite the fact that it is growing at a CAGR of 29% and to a predicted value of $12 billion by 2020 according to Wohlers.
The importance of prototyping to the product development cycle cannot be overstated, and 3D printing right now presents an invaluable tool for speeding the time to market. It may not be the sexiest application out there, but it is the foundational cornerstone of the AM industry.
However, there will be continued improvements in printers focused on prototyping. The quality and capability of these printers will step up their offering in terms of speed, material, reliability and colour capability. We may also see a potential convergence of technologies which would offer a ‘one stop shop’ solution.
And how would you like to see it evolve?
As manufacturers, we are all responsible for shaping the future and reaching the ultimate goals for this industry. Adoption of AM technology for manufacturing is a long-term goal and will be driven by product lifecycle and this can vary industry to industry – 3 years, 5 years, 10 years or more. For example, in the automotive industry it won’t be a case of printing an entire car right away, it may start with an area like tooling and will expand from there once AM has proved itself so to speak.
The hardware is one thing but for additive manufacturing to succeed, all elements of the ecosystem must work together including software and materials. We are starting to see this happen particularly on the software side as software is becoming more optimised for additive processes.
Clearly, the future is bright for 3D printing in the industrial space. Suffice to say 3D printing car parts in the future, for example, will be as easy and fast as printing on your 2D printer, saving time in development and millions of dollars. But for now we need to get more focused on what we can do now and the rest will come. There is plenty of scope for development right across the board in 3D printing – from transforming design processes to fully utilising functional prototypes.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
- For girls considering the pursuit of studying STEM –
Don’t be afraid to be different – From an early age the gender stereotype of boys being better at science, maths can discourage girls from studying STEM subjects. I would like to tell girls that they are just as good at these subjects as boys. Don’t be afraid to be different even if your friends are choosing other subjects.
Your country needs you – I would tell them that the tech sector needs more women studying, working and sticking with tech skills to ensure that there’s enough talent for the future. Your country needs you!
You will have the power to change the world – I would tell them that a career based on a STEM qualification will empower you to change the world. These subjects are the stepping stones to innovation, invention and creating tomorrows world.
Don’t worry about what you don’t know – I would tell them not to worry about what they don’t know as this could lead you to that which differentiates you. The inquisitive mind finds problems and solves them. Fail faster and reach a solution!
Don’t be afraid of hard work – Thomas Edison said that, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Girls should note that studying STEM is not easy but it can lead to great things.
Don’t view other girls as your competition – I would tell them that they are not in competition with other girls. You are competing with everyone. Too many girls can get caught up with their female peers and not their class as a whole. This is too narrow a perspective – girls you need to think big!
Incidentally, this can overflow into the workplace so that’s why an organisation like Women in 3D Printing that brings women together really helps.
- For women interested in working in 3D printing –
You are in an industry that will certainly make a difference – 3D printing is an exciting industry – it’s a tech that can and will continue to make a difference so you can too.
Make the job your own – Because 3D printing is an evolving tech there is the opportunity to make a job your own. If you bring your skill set to this high growth industry you could have an impact on the future.
So many ways to get involved –There are opportunities in design, engineering, manufacturing, personal 3D printing, education, and biotechnology – just pick one!
Don’t be afraid of hard work – Be mindful that there are many new players in the 3D printing industry, many are small start-ups so if you opt to work in this environment don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get involved. In a start-up (even if you have been a top exec) everyone does everything from serving the lunch, pitching in on the tradeshow booth, to answering the phone. But it is exciting and worth it to be a part of such a dynamic industry!
It’s like family – The 3D printing industry is like a big family – you will meet the same people on the circuit all the time, form relationships, network and do good business. There is a feel-good factor to this business!
We need more women – It would be great if the 3D printing industry could lead the way in exhibiting progression in diversity in tech. We will have strength in numbers and Women in 3D Printing will be a real catalyst for encouraging more women to join!
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? The ARKe
Favorite moment in your day job? Every day is different – that’s what I love!
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? Ubiquitous
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Rachel Park
Thank you for reading and for sharing!