Real-View 3D ScreengrabA screen grab of one of Real-View 3D's product pages from April 25th 2013.
We at TCT have been overwhelmed by the response we received after publishing our feature on Massive Dynamics on March 21st, identifying the 3D printing company's dubious operations and financial background for the benefit of our readers.
One month on and we are still getting emails and comments from people who have either done their own research or have invested in the company. Despite our feature and a number of similar articles published by other news sites on the web, the Massive Dynamics media campaign rumbles on.
Its apparent exponential growth has meant the company has continued in its frenzied production of press releases, putting out nearly as many since our article was published as 3D printing industry juggernaut 3D Systems. By contrast, fellow sector giants Stratasys and ExOne's press release record for this four-week period pales into insignificance.
Change in management
The most recent press release to come from Massive Dynamics' California office is the news that "renowned technologist" Jonathan J Howard is going to be taking over from President and sole employee Oscar Hines as the boss of the 3D printing business.
This week, the company announced that the Real-View 3D manager - who is one of the two staff at the Rochester-based 3D scanning firm - will take Mr Hines' place at the head of the organisation, while Mr Hines joins the company's Board.
Mr Hines will not be lonely on the Board of Directors for long, however, as Mr Howard has been tasked with appointing "industry and financial veterans" to guide the firm.
There is something too familiar about Mr Howard becoming the new President of Massive Dynamics. Real-View 3D and Mr Howard have featured heavily on Massive Dynamics' press page this year, as the latter has acquired the Rochester-based technology company for an undisclosed sum. Even so, it is unusual for the Director of the company that is being bought out to then become the overall Manager once the deal has been completed.
We at TCT wanted to talk to Mr Howard about this arrangement, but the email sent to the address on Real-View 3D's Contact Us page went unanswered - which did not come as a surprise as we tried it unsuccessfully a month ago.
However, the telephone number did work. After two rings the phone was answered by a young-sounding male who claimed we had a wrong number and we had called his personal cell phone. He did not know how we could contact Mr Howard, nor did he claim to know who Mr Howard is and ended the call. We rang back again to inform him his number is on a business website and he acknowledged he had received other calls from people looking for a company. We asked him to get a pen and take down the address to see for himself. Of course, it may well have been Mr Howard on the line but he did not feel like talking to us.
This leads us to another familiar theme - a questionable portfolio of products. Just like Massive Dynamics' unusual range of items, alarm bells were ringing regarding Real-View 3D's product pages due to the fact every single one of them is under construction and have been for some time.
Nevertheless, we did unearth a United States Patent Application Publication document dated July 21st 2011 on which one Jonathan J Howard of Las Vegas, NV, is named as an inventor along with James F Munro of Walworth, NY, and Kevin J Kearney of Fairport, NY. Mr Howard's fellow collaborators live within striking distance of Rochester, NY.
The patent is for generating and displaying 3D images by using a head-mounted display and the assignee for the patent application is Quantum Medical Technology. The domain QuantumMT.com does exist, with the domain linking back to a Chinese company called eName Technology, which Bloomberg lists as being an online game platform based in Xiamen. This is the QuantumMT website, which states its domain name is for sale.
We found an @QuantumMT.com email address that appears to belong to Mr Howard. We tried contacting Mr Howard via this email address, as his LinkedIn profile indicates he is still the Chief Executive Officer of the firm. However, our email bounced back.
Rochester locals Kevin Kearney and James Munro check out as industry experts on LinkedIn too, but neither have pictures on their profiles, nor do they mention Quantum Medical Technology anywhere in their work experience. We failed to find contact details for Mr Kearney, but dug out an email address for James Munro. We gave him a full day to reply to our request for information for getting in touch with Mr Howard and asked if he himself had any news that may be of interest to TCT Magazine as a leading 3D printing publication, but as we set the story live we have still heard nothing.
Is the proof in the patent?
The above patent is the only one we could find with Jonathan J Howard's name included in the documentation, which does not matter, as most people never get the chance to have their name on a patent - but even so, our doubts remain.
A recent report from Silicon Valley start-up Lex Machina's reveals that, as of 2012, 56 per cent of all patent lawsuits are made by so-called patent trolls, with this number increasing from 24 per cent in 2007. Zdnet.com's Steven J Vaughn-Nichols' article on the subject from earlier this month claims a patent troll is an individual or company that uses patents as a legal weapon, instead of actually coming up with a new product or innovation.
He stated: "Since the Patent & Trademark Office has a bad habit of issuing very broad patents for ideas that are neither new nor revolutionary, it's easy for a patent troll, which typically has no other business, to send out threatening letters to anyone who might conceivably infringe their patents."
"These letters," he continued, "usually threaten a lawsuit unless the alleged infringer agrees to pay a licensing fee. Patent trolling is a very successful business."
In all seriousness, this is not to suggest that Messrs Howard, Kearney and Munro are embroiled in such a scam, nor that Real-View 3D or even Massive Dynamics are either, but it is a worry that even an official patent document cannot always vouch for an individual or company due to the prevalence of patent trolling.
Once again we have felt duty-bound to publish our findings for the benefit of our readers and those who have invested in Massive Dynamics. Moreover, those who want to learn more about the enigmatic Oscar Hines can click to a special feature on our Personalize site.
But, sadly, another Massive Dynamics trail has gone cold. Nevertheless, even without speaking to any of the individuals named above, here at TCT Towers we hope Jonathan J Howard is indeed the renowned technologist he is said to be and that he is going to make Massive Dynamics into the company it claims it is.
Maybe Mr Howard discussed his plans with Mr Hines when they attended the Inside 3D Printing Conference together in New York this week? Indeed, our TCT insider believes he spotted a man that looks a lot like Mr Hines at the event. It is also worth mentioning that 1,000 free copies of the latest edition of TCT Magazine featuring What is Massive Dynamics were handed out to attendees there.