After losing his job as a technical product manager at IBM Watson in Squirrel Hill during the pandemic, Reggie Raye decided to go into business for himself and created TOMO in December 2020.
The design studio pairs his 10 years of experience with 3D printing with a master’s degree in product development from Carnegie Mellon University and an architecture background from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
“I said, ‘You know what, let me just see if I can make a go of this,’” Raye says. “Ever since then I’ve been developing products and refining printers and my abilities and software to make things that are really beautiful and really functional”
3D printing has been around since the 1980s, but a recent IDTechEx report predicts it will become a $41 billion industry by next year.
Online retailer TOMO features household and home office items such as bookends, lamps, vases, watering cans and business card holders. Prices range from $40 to $250.
“My latest collection has been the result of looking to nature for patterns and writing computer programs that can capture those patterns so I can imitate them with my products,” Raye says.
One of his recent products is the Cypress Lamp, inspired by the way the branches of Mediterranean Cypress trees twist as they reach higher. Raye’s Cypress Lamp is currently on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut. Raye was also a finalist in the 2015 NASA Centennial Challenge that sought ideas for Mars habitation models that could be 3D-printed with materials from the Red Planet. For the competition, he created a silo at the bottom of a crater that would theoretically protect humans from radiation.
Aside from his business, Raye also teaches a STEAM class to 9- to 12-year-olds at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA.
“We’ve done a lot of work in CAD and parametric modeling, 3D printing, laser cutting,” Raye says. “I think it’s so helpful for young people to realize the first version is always going to be kind of crummy. You use your failures and mistakes as learning opportunities. It’s been a tremendous privilege to work with students from across the city to create things that are beautiful and useful.”
Raye also teaches a 3D-printing class at Protohaven, a makerspace in Wilkinsburg. And he was recently awarded a grant from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
TOMO’s upcoming collection will draw inspiration from home appliances formerly made in Pittsburgh.
“I’m going to integrate objects like Westinghouse fans and lamps and heaters,” Raye says. “I want to sort of marry this new technology and this new style, which looks kind of futuristic, with something which is historic and has local roots.”
It’s all part of honoring his adopted hometown.
“I love being in Pittsburgh,” Raye says. “I moved here for CMU back in 2016 and I never looked back. The ecosystem here is so supportive. There’s something in the air, there’s the sense of innovation, in the value of craft, in the value of making things. And those factories have left and only their shells remain, but I think that ethos lives on.”