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Blacksburg startup trying to carve a path

BLACKSBURG — You can see Rendyr’s progress in the little trinkets scattered around the startup’s small, windowless office in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

There’s an orange acrylic space ship, a plastic cat, a unicorn cut out of paper and a wood plank with Rendyr’s logo scorched onto the surface.

They were all made with laser cutters, offcuts in pursuit of a new type of smaller, cheaper and portable machine.

Kaelum Hasler, Rendyr’s CEO, had the idea for a desktop laser cutter way back during his freshman year at Virginia Tech. Now, the 20-year-old sophomore is working with a handful of fellow students to perfect the design and begin mass production.

Laser cutters use a highly focused beam to heat and cut through a variety of thin materials, such as plywood or cardboard. They’re often used by architects and designers to build 3D models.

The user loads a design into the machine and a computer takes it from there. The lasers can cut quicker and more precisely than other tools, creating intricate designs than would be impossible by hand.

The problem, Rendyr says, is that laser cutters are usually large and expensive. They aren’t portable, but are instead parked in a dedicated production area like an appliance.

Hasler and Martin Angst, Rendyr’s COO, believe a portable laser cutter could be a game changer. Users would carry it home or to work. They could set it up at their normal desk and work on other things while the machine makes the cuts.

The pair have spent the past year trying to make that vision a reality with Rendyr’s first product, called Optic.

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