Queen's graduates manufacturing success with invention

Article Date: May 11, 2015

The future looks bright for four Queen's University graduates as they prepare to begin the launch of their new creation, the Palette, which has an expected release date of January 2016.

Mitch Debora, Heather Evans, Chris Labelle and Derek Vogt, all co-founders of Mosaic Manufacturing, have been working on the Palette over the course of roughly a year. Danny Lloyd, a Queen's third-year electrical engineering student, was helping with the creation of the Palette, although due to a busy school year, Lloyd was unable to continue working with Mosaic Manufacturing.

The design is made to turn any single-colour, desktop 3-D printer on the market to a multi-colour and multi-material printer.

"This is important because it means the user can skip the upgrade cycle of buying a new printer, and they can expand the range of objects that they can create in their home," said Chris Labelle, co-founder and chief operating officer of Mosaic Manufacturing. "The idea is by adding colours, different material properties like conductivity or rigidity, you can go from printing a single-colour piece of plastic to something like a multi-coloured flashlight with an embedded circuit inside," Labelle said.

The group was brought together in the summer of 2014 as part of the Queen's summer innovation initiative. The Queen's summer innovation initiative is a program run by the Queen's innovation connector. Its purpose is to help Queen's University students build on their existing strengths while developing ideas and discoveries that can make a difference in the world.

The Queen's innovation initiative takes 40 recent graduates from Queen's in whom they see entrepreneurial potential. With roughly 200 applicants per year, the competition is tight.

The 40 accepted applicants are divided into groups and are given four months for planning, preparation and development for a product, which they pitched to a panel of judges in September 2014. The prize for the group with the most appealing product pitch was $40,000 to further build their business.

Mosaic Manufacturing is currently promoting the Palette with a Kickstarter campaign. When beginning the Palette Kickstarter, Mosaic Manufacturing had pledged a goal of $75,000, providing backers who have pledged $5 or more with a promotional item varying from recognition on Mosaic's Wall of Fame to collectible key chains, Mosaic T-shirts, as well as the Palette itself for those who have pledged $599 or more.

Since beginning the Palette fundraiser on kickstarter.com, Mosaic Manufacturing has easily surpassed its goal of $75,000, raising $169,000 and counting.

Mosaic Manufacturing continued development as it worked at Innovation Park up until February. The organization has since then moved offices to Montreal, as it has partnered with Real Ventures, a company that runs an accelerator program and has been coaching Mosaic Manufacturing through its business process.

The majority of the initial development was done in Kingston, including design and construction work. The final steps, such as esthetic overhaul, industrial design and material optimization, were completed after the change of locations.

When asked about the move to Montreal, Labelle said: "It was a support network here. Real Ventures has been doing this for a long time and they know what they're doing."

"They've been coaching us how to build a successful startup. Because of the help they've given us, we've been able to make significant growth as a company instead of just being an actual product," Labelle said.

Although Mosaic Manufacturing has relocated to Montreal, Labelle noted that members still travel to Innovation Park in Kingston for some specific tasks.

"There are great prototyping facilities there. There's tons of help there in terms of networking and our mentors, so we do in fact do work in Kingston regularly," Labelle said.

When asked about the possibility of Mosaic Manufacturing changing locations back to Kingston, Labelle showed interest.

"Kingston's been great to us. We've seen a ton of support and there are a lot of reasons as to why we would move back to Kingston," Labelle said. "We're seriously considering opening up a location there, at minimum it would be a manufacturing."

James Paddle-Grant/For The Whig-Standard