With roots in Portland, North Drinkware founders Nic Ramirez, Matt Capozzi, and Leigh Capozzi wanted to showcase the things that they — and most Oregonians — love about their state, specifically craft beer and lush mountains. Like all great ideas, their custom-made pint glass with a replica of Mount Hood in the base now seems obvious.
The Kickstarter community thought so too: North Drinkware’s Oregon Pint reached its $15,000 target in five hours and fifteen minutes, and the campaign went on to raise more than $500,000 by the time it closed in March 2015.
Kickstarter’s project rules call for “explicit demos of a working prototype.” So the North Drinkware team combined 3D technologies with the old-school craft of glassblowing to make a physical proof of concept.
They took 3D data of Mount Hood, the state’s highest peak, from the United States Geological Survey, and mocked up a digital model of it in the base of a pint glass that they had designed themselves. Then they 3D printed the completed glass design on a MakerBot Replicator to develop the plaster molds that shaped the first glasses.
“By using a MakerBot, we were able to do five iterations for almost nothing, versus, if we had made five graphite molds, it would have cost $20,000,” said Ramirez.
With overwhelming backing in place, North Drinkware needed to go into production on a scale much larger than anticipated. “We got to the point where we imagined we would be in five years in five days,” he said.
Scaling up quickly can uncover pain points in manufacturing, and North Drinkware needed to invent some processes as they went. For example, sometimes a glass needs to be ground at the lip after it’s been flame-polished. In this instance, the team designed a 3D printed fixture to hold the bottom of the glass and keep it level as it’s ground. One more flame polish, and that glass is ready to be shipped.
The first Kickstarter backers received their Oregon Pint glasses in May.
Aside from finding harmony between an age-old craft and emerging technologies, North Drinkware built a new kind of local operation with both handmade and manufactured elements. They also created six new jobs, giving back to the community in a way they hadn’t expected.
To get started, they say, “Kickstarter was the big accelerant. To get to the proof of concept, MakerBot was critical.”
And next? Eventually, they plan to offer glasses with a signature landmark in other states, including Washington, Vermont, California, and Colorado.