McNees Accelerator Helps Power Lehr Labs’ Industrial 3D Printing Expansion
Evan Lehr ’21 and Marcos Rivera ’20 won the 2023 McNees Accelerator pitch competition with their vision for an industrial 3D printing business. The York College program helped them expand Lehr Labs into the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship and buy a cubic-meter 3D printer.
At the intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship in York County, the McNees Accelerator at York College of Pennsylvania is helping owners of budding businesses plan and fund their ventures.
Among the success stories emerging from this dynamic eight-workshop program is Lehr Labs, an industrial 3D printing company founded by York College graduates Evan Lehr and Marcos Rivera. Through the April 2023 McNees Accelerator program, the pair not only honed their business model but secured funding to help fuel their expanding company.
The McNees Accelerator is designed to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the experience, guidance, and additional funding needed to launch or establish successful businesses. The program offers a combination of educational workshops and mentorship by faculty members and community experts.
From hobby to industry
Lehr Labs, which recently expanded into the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at the College, offers a unique blend of innovation and manufacturing—a perfect fit for York, a city once dominated by manufacturing. Lehr and Rivera, both Mechanical Engineering majors, embarked into the world of 3D printing as a hobby.
“My whole life, I’ve been designing drones and vehicles,” says Lehr. “Instead of buying a part for $10 to $20 for a car, I could print it for a penny.”
During an internship at motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson, Lehr further experienced the value of industrial 3D printing when he found employees waiting days for machined prototypes and fixtures. During his last semester at York College, he filed for Limited Liability Company certification, or LLC, to launch Lehr Labs.
Lehr and Rivera discovered the McNees Accelerator and joined the program in April 2023, driven by the desire for additional business exposure. Their fledgling company was just beginning to take off. Combining workshops and business leaders’ knowledge and concluding with a final pitch competition, the Accelerator exposed them to key industry players and experts while helping them hone their business value proposition.
“The business exposure and network building were a big part of it,” Lehr says. “That final pitch allowed us to pitch in front of the board. They were some very key players in helping us build our network."
Expanding their footprint
During the Accelerator program, Lehr and Rivera pitched their idea for an industrial 3D printing company, focusing specifically on building a high-performance, high-temperature 3D printer. Their well-established business plan and model set them apart, catching the attention of the board and leading to them winning funds for their ambitious project.
Since then, Lehr Labs has been on a mission to push the boundaries of 3D printing. The pair invested their $3,000 McNees prize into a large-format printer recently installed in their J.D. Brown Center office. The cubic-meter printer, while not the high-heat model they’re working toward, will allow them to take on an expanded array of large-format printing projects with applications from aerospace to manufacturing.
Eventually, Lehr and Rivera hope to expand into a new portion of the College’s Knowledge Park, where they can build larger-format, high-temperature printers. They envision creating an additive manufacturing conglomerate, operating across various sectors in the 3D printing industry, encompassing the design, production, and distribution of a wide range of manufacturing technologies and products. Their goal is to expand their capabilities, hire more employees, and set the standard for the 3D printing industry.
Looking back on their McNees Accelerator experience, Lehr and Rivera never imagined they’d expand so quickly in less than a year. Lehr encourages attendees to take a hard look at their value proposition and decide if they have a good idea for the market.
“They’ll help you develop a plan,” he says of the Accelerator.
As York’s manufacturing landscape evolves, Lehr Labs is at the forefront of innovation in a city with a rich industrial heritage. The McNees Accelerator helped Lehr and Rivera get where they are today.
Registration is open for the Spring 2024 McNees Accelerator. Participants can earn up to $5,000 in funding on the concluding Pitch Day. The program is open to individuals and teams with early-stage companies or those with a history of entrepreneurship.
The Accelerator at the J.D. Brown Center covers such topics as value proposition, marketing research, customer discovery, legal considerations, funding sources, cost structure, and estimating startup costs.
Registration for the Spring 2024 McNees Accelerator is now open. Apply here!