Desktop Factory Inc. is about to disappear.

The Pasadena-based company, which built a printing device that could produce 3-D sculptures, announced two weeks ago that it had run out of cash. Cathy Lewis, the company’s chief executive and its lone remaining employee, told the Business Journal the company had an interested buyer and expected a deal to close within the next month.

Desktop Factory, which was spun out of incubator IdeaLab in 2004, offered so-called 3-D printers primarily to businesses and schools for $5,000 each. Users would design a three-dimensional model on computers and Desktop Factory’s printing device would then build the model out of plastic powder. Possible buyers included architects who could use the printer to make a model building, or a geologist who could use it to make a model landscape.

The company was among a wave of startups trying to popularize 3-D printing, and for a while it enjoyed success. In mid-2007, Desktop Factory had around 22 employees and deposits for 115 printers.

But 3-D printing failed to go mainstream because of the expense and limited market. Desktop Factory also struggled to get its product into testing as it burned through the money raised from IdeaLab.

“It was always a long shot,” Lewis said. “It was always going to be several years out before the full vision was realized.”

Earlier this year, Desktop Factory was on the verge of raising $3 million. But Lewis said the lead investor, venture firm Sofinnova Partners of Paris, pulled out a day before the deal closed. So Desktop Factory decided to lay off employees and seek a sale. Sofinnova declined to comment.

Lewis declined to specify Desktop Factory’s sale price or identify the prospective buyer, but said it was a company already in the printing business. Meanwhile, Desktop Factory has issued refunds to customers who put down deposits.

Lewis said she did not plan to stay on with Desktop Factory’s new parent company.

“At the end of the month, I’ll probably dust off my resume and see what’s next for me,” she said.

Airborne Wi-Fi

Row 44 Inc. is ready for takeoff.

Now that the Westlake Village company has secured a permanent operating license from the Federal Communications Commission, it can start serious negotiations with airlines to equip their entire fleets with its high-speed wireless Internet equipment designed specifically for air travel.

The company’s goal is to become the leading high-speed wireless Internet provider for planes cruising 40,000 feet above ground.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.