KLAMATH FALLS – William Weissmeyer leads an experiment downtown.
Two large metal shipping containers can be found on the lot outside of Weissmeyer’s East Main Street tech startup Vioweiss. The indescribable appearance of the containers belies their intended fate.
One of the containers becomes Klamath Falls’ next local ice cream shop. Weissmeyer hopes the other will be a low-cost two-story house.
Weissmeyer plans to use 3D printing to fabricate the signage, walls, insulation and other parts needed to turn humble shipping containers into livable, salable and sustainable spaces.
Dubbed “The Flavor Container”, the ice cream shop will be a proof of concept and on-site experience.
“The idea here was: let’s see if we can set up a micro-business on the ground, while also demonstrating the concept of having 3D printed walls,” Weissmeyer said. “Because I want the general public to be exposed to this stuff.”
A “serial entrepreneur”
When Weissmeyer opened the metal doors of The Flavor Container one morning in June, he described himself as a “serial entrepreneur.”
For about nine years, Weissmeyer said he held executive positions at various tech companies around Seattle and Portland. But in 2017, Weissmeyer decided it was time to quit his office job.
“When you work in an American company, you’re basically a 9 to 5 specialist in something,” Weissmeyer said. “It didn’t give me the opportunity to learn things. That’s when I understood and that’s when I started to take a serious interest in this technology.
The cost of 3D printing has declined in recent years as the supplies and the printers themselves have become cheaper, Weissmeyer said.
The printing process begins first in the mind of the designer, who models the object he wishes to print in computer design software. The design is sent to the printer who builds the object, layer by layer, with hot-extruded plastic until the planned three-dimensional structure becomes reality.
“It really is amazing technology for manufacturing,” said Jake Sarnecky, a recent math graduate from the Oregon Institute of Technology who works and is an apprentice at Vioweiss. “I don’t think there is anything that compares to that.”
Weissmeyer started Vioweiss with $ 20,000 in 2018. He started out by printing and selling small accessories and parts for instruments. Online, Vioweiss products are able to outperform plastics made in China, allowing Weissmeyer to fund and grow the business.
“Then I moved the business here in 2019,” Weissmeyer said. “Because in Seattle, a building like this costs $ 3 million. I don’t have a silver spoon, do I, and there are some good educational institutions here and I think Klamath is very business-friendly.
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Move on to something bigger
Vioweiss recently received two grants from Klamath County – $ 15,000 to explore building development and an additional $ 10,000 for the ice cream business.
At the company’s research and development center on East Main Street, Weissmeyer has a small army of commercial-grade 3D printers and a considerably larger one that will be coming online soon.
The larger printer, which is almost as tall as Weissmeyer, allows Vioweiss to move on to printing larger components like those needed to create an ice cream shop or a future home.
The exterior of the Flavor Container currently looks like any other shipping container, but Weissmeyer imagined it with large, colorful 3D printed tiles covering the exterior and a large service window cut out on one side, similar to a food truck.
Weissmeyer said installing a traditional window would cost nearly $ 1,000 and require nearly 64 parts. By 3D printing the frame, Weissmeyer estimated that he could reduce the cost to around $ 250 and that the entire window would be reduced to just three pieces – two frames and the glass itself.
With The Flavor Container in the field, Weissmeyer said they can observe how people interact with some of the design elements and see “if they like certain things, if certain design elements don’t work. So it’s really a very big experience for us to be able to do it. “
Weissmeyer plans to transfer the knowledge gained from the Flavor Container into his next project: a two-story house made with modernized shipping containers and 3D printed walls made of plastic from recycled water bottles.
“The accommodation is super expensive. The quality is not always great, ”said Weissmeyer. “There are a lot of maintenance issues associated with traditional construction. “
The house – made of two shipping containers – will be built for one person. The containers are “fire resistant” and “earthquake resistant,” Weissmeyer said. The market he is trying to target is the 18-40 year old who might be fed up with living with roommates or renting.
“What do I get for $ 1,000 or $ 600 a month?” Why am I not buying? Said Weissmeyer. “I wish I could turn around and say, ‘OK, you can own your own home for ($ 40,000 to) $ 60,000. “”
“Everyone should be able to afford their own home”
The “complete solution” is years away, Weissmeyer said. By the end of this year, being able to do exterior insulation, window and door frames and knowing they are working would be a big step forward.
If it finds that these components are working, Vioweiss could turn around and start selling them individually to start raising funding for the company’s future projects.
“I’m 38. When I was 24 I didn’t have $ 100,000 in my pocket and I had student debt, you know,” Weissmeyer said. “It’s part of the American dream that everyone can afford their own home, and it shouldn’t be a tent or structure that will only last for five years, either. So that’s kind of the vision of what we’re doing here.
The team right now is small, including Weissmeyer, Sarnecky, and those they train to run the ice cream shop.
By mid-June, Weissmeyer was working under permits with the health department. A menu is already online and they are training the first two employees of the store in the use of the six ice cream machines.
The Flavor Container, 1114 E. Main St., is now open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. It’s already on Yelp.