Thomas Sickler has been yearning after a 3D printer for three years — all the way back to when he was nine and started reading about them in Wired magazine. It’s not surprising, given that this Bend 12-year-old is an inventor at heart.

He spent last summer collecting wood to make a sail boat. He has a homemade ‘reading lamp’ hanging from the ceiling in his room. He once made a contraption that let him turn off his light switch without getting out of bed. Obviously a 3D printer was the ultimate.

One of Thomas' inventions.
One of Thomas’ inventions.

However, Thomas also has very lovely parents, who aren’t inclined to simply buy him whatever he wants, nor did they know much about 3D printers. “We’d only read a little about the technology in magazines or heard the occasional story on the news about someone using one to make an organ or a prosthetic limb,” says his dad Tripp, who is the international sales manager for Ruffwear.

His parents said no to Thomas’ request many times. “Then I began to think about the reasons he wanted a 3D printer. The ‘why’ was obvious: he wanted to make stuff!” Tripp says. So one day, last fall, Tripp asked Thomas how much one of these things cost. Thomas, who had long been tracking models, prices, deals, where to download designs, etc. immediately responded that there was a Black Friday sale, offering a printer for $425 — plus free shipping and a roll of filament. “They used to cost more than a $1,000,” Thomas notes.

So Tripp threw out there that if Thomas could figure out a way to pay for one, Tripp could buy it and Thomas could pay him back. That’s when the inventor also became a budding entrepreneur. Thomas downloaded designs from thingiverse and then went door-to-door around his neighborhood, taking pre-orders for 3D printed key chains, light switch plates, iPad covers and other products.

Personalized key chains FTW.
Personalized key chains FTW.
Light switch plates for sale.
Light switch plates for sale.

He had commitments for nearly $400 within a couple of weeks. “He did it. What could I say?” Tripp says. He helped his son order the printer, an XYZ da Vinci 1.0. The giant box arrived on Dec. 4. Thomas remembers the exact date. “I was pretty excited,” he says.

The 3D printer arrives.
The 3D printer arrives.

True to his word, Thomas went right to work fulfilling his pre-orders, printing products after school and on the weekends. They’re now done and delivered, except for a couple of items he’s printing for his grandparents in Chile. But Thomas is still in business, ready to print more products and hoping to possibly save up for a bike.

He’s taking orders for all sorts of things you can 3D print, from Go-Pro mounts to toys to key chains and gears. He recently made a T-Rex head for a friend. He also personally has his sights set on printing a gigantic rocket. “But that would take like 1,000 hours of printing,” he says. Something tells me, he’ll probably make it happen.

Side note: Thomas’ mom notes that the business closes down early in the evening, because it’s noisy and Thomas also has homework.

If you’d like to order products from Thomas, reach him at [email protected]. He can fill you in on what’s available, prices (they’re reasonable) and turnaround time.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley