“We make machines that give people a superpower to unlock their creativity,” says Bre Pettis of his company, Bantam Tools, which opened in Peekskill last year after relocating from Berkeley, CA. His firm manufactures desktop milling machines that are used to make printed circuit boards and aluminum parts. Bantam Tools’ machines have been widely used at top makerspaces and universities, including MIT and Stanford.
The company’s new machine, which builds on previous models’ capabilities, now also allows you to make aluminum parts fast and easy. It sells for about $4,000. “Wherever people are creating things in electronics,” Pettis says, “we are helping them develop the future.”
In more practical terms, Bantam Desktop PCB Milling Machines etch the tracks on printed circuit boards in minutes and, with their new machine, allow users to make aluminum parts, while saving time and money. (Milling a new PCB traditionally required sending the job out to a manufacturer.) With prototypes easily created and modified, product-development cycles are drastically condensed.
“Iteration is a really important part of innovation,” Pettis explains. “If you can ‘try again’ quickly, at a low cost, you will be able to revise faster and make better products.” The innovative utility of these portable milling machines enabled Pettis, back in April, to donate a number of them to organizations that could use them to make a variety of COVID-19-related equipment, including face shields for medical personnel and valves for ventilators.
“The infrastructure is there, allowing you to have teams anywhere. So why not someplace like Peekskill, with its great combination of natural beauty, urban community, talent, and affordability?”
— Bre Pettis, Owner, Bantam Tools
Aficionados of 3D printing probably know Pettis best as a founder of MakerBot in Brooklyn. Part of a vanguard of firms set to revolutionize at-home 3D printing, MakerBot was established in 2009 and was sold four years later to Stratasys in a stock deal reported to be worth more than $400 million. (Pettis left MakerBot in 2014.)
In 2017, Pettis purchased the Other Machine Co., renamed the company Bantam Tools, and commuted coast to coast to oversee its development before taking the business east. Peekskill was an easy choice, says Pettis, a weekender-turned-full-time-resident of nearby Croton-on-Hudson. “I’d been going to Peekskill to get coffee for years, so I knew it well,” he says.
In addition to great coffee, Peekskill offered an affordable alternative to both Brooklyn and California’s Bay area, which have become unrealistically expensive, Pettis says. Pettis acquired a bundle of old properties on Peekskill’s North Water Street, refurbishing one to house Bantam Tools, with plans to develop the others. He envisions a row of artist studios and startup incubators, hoping to entice sustainable and forward-thinking enterprises that will “literally save the planet.” Pettis estimates that he will invest more than $5 million in his Peekskill venture and intends to employ some 54 people as part of a five-year-plan. (Local tech-savvy types, take heed: Pettis wants you!)
So far, Pettis couldn’t be happier in his new professional home. “More people who are technically proficient and creative will move out of cities to start businesses,” he predicts. “The infrastructure is there, allowing you to have teams anywhere. So why not someplace like Peekskill, with its great combination of natural beauty, urban community, talent, and affordability?”