Husband and wife team, Brian and Lynn Hoffmann, are bringing 3D printing to the masses

“I’ve told people we could never have done this when we were younger,” Lynn Hoffmann says of launching a new business with her husband Brian last year. “But our long marriage can survive the ups and downs of a business.”

Not only has this pair “survived,” they’ve thrived.

Their company, Intermountain 3D, sells, services and operates production-grade 3D printers, with much of their business coming from custom-parts manufacturing and prototyping.

Unlike the traditional injection molding process, 3D printers excel in the tinniest of details.
Unlike the traditional injection molding process, 3D printers excel in the tinniest of details.

“We are working with research companies, design engineers in the sportsman, aircraft and food processing industries, entrepreneurs, and established manufacturers,” Brian says.

In fact, with the technology Intermountain 3D employs, the range of applications is almost endless. 3D printing uses specially made printers to lay down successive layers of material — usually plastic, but also wood or metal alloys. As these layers build up, they create a physical object.

For over a decade, professional industries have been using the technology for prototyping and manufacturing, while hobbyists have just begun to embrace 3D printing technology for models, trinkets, musical instruments and more. To serve such a broad market, Intermountain 3D sells and utilizes the latest technology, including some printers the size of refrigerators, capable of precision down to the widths of human hair.

Intermountain 3D products
If you can think of it, they can make it — wheels, nozzles, engine parts, hands, even custom jewelry.
An interlocking material entirely colored and made inside a 3D printer.
An interlocking material entirely colored and made inside a 3D printer. No assembly required.

The adoption of 3D printing by the mainstream may be new, but it is a technology that these two former Hewlett-Packard veterans have been watching for a long time.

“It’s interesting that 2D printing and 3D printing were really invented at the same time,” Lynn explains. “But due to many factors, we’re seeing one nearing the end of its life cycle, with the other really just getting going.”

They should know.

After moving to Boise in 1988 to work for Hewlett-Packard, the couple spent the bulk of their careers working in the printing and imaging industry — Brian in research and development, Lynn in marketing.

After retiring from successful careers there, the couple explored other passions. For Brian, it was aviation. He buoyed his pilot’s license with aviation mechanic education.

For Lynn, it was nonprofits. She took the helm of the Idaho Nonprofit Center, an organization dedicated to representing and growing charitable nonprofits. “If you want to experience true creativity, inventiveness and drive to succeed, there’s nothing like a successful nonprofit,” says Lynn.

It has taken the skills of both Lynn and Brian to start and grow Intermountain 3D. Brian uses his engineering background — including his experience working in his father’s industrial equipment refurbishing shop as a teen — to solve complex technical challenges. And Lynn uses her extensive organizational skills to lead marketing and manage operations.

Inside an active 3D printer
The inside of a refrigerator-sized 3D printer.

Despite some claiming 3D printing is a niche market, the couple believes the benefits of 3D printing make it likely to become as ubiquitous as traditional 2D printing technologies. After all, much of the technology we take for granted today wasn’t so obviously beneficial in its early days.

“It’s hard to imagine now,” Brian says, “but we had to fight some internal battles to introduce the first-ever color laser printer. And it didn’t get any easier when we worked on the first scan-to-email product or any of our other new market technologies. The teams we were part of learned to be nimble, adaptive and to fight against the inertia that is part of big company politics.”

At a time of life when many of their friends are winding down their careers and spending time on more laid-back pursuits, Lynn and Brian Hoffmann are fully committed to their new business. They like the work and enjoy the adventure in a new and growing market, meeting a wide variety of creative and innovative people, they can’t imagine stopping any time soon.

“We’re delighting in it as we never could have imagined.”

Photography by Mike Kerby of c308 Marketing

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