At a Glance
Major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Activities: Rist DifferenceMaker Institute
Opportunity knocked on Jonathan Aguilar’s River Hawk Village door in the fall of 2020. While most of the campus was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aguilar ’21 was living in the East Campus residence hall with several fellow mechanical engineering majors — people with whom he shared interests in computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing.
Through his participation in the Rist DifferenceMaker program, Aguilar had already started his own company earlier that year called CADSPARC, which offers customized design services for 3D printing. When he learned that students on his floor needed to print 3D models for classes but couldn’t use the Lawrence Lin MakerSpace because it was closed, he came to their rescue with VirtualPrint, a website he’d created where users could upload their design and have it printed on a networked 3D printer — in this case the one in Aguilar’s dorm room.
Aguilar and his friends were soon providing free 3D printing to dozens of students and receiving orders from as far away as California.
“That’s when we saw a business opportunity,” says Aguilar, who registered the VirtualPrint business that fall and moved it, as part of CADSPARC, to the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub in Haverhill, where it has been growing ever since.
“I never thought I was going to own my own company. I was just focusing on a project, and then the project turned into something real,” says Aguilar, who has employed a half-dozen summer interns from UML and other local colleges at the Haverhill iHub.
Born in New York City and raised in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Aguilar discovered a passion for CAD while at Northern Essex Community College. A first-generation college student, he began taking dual enrollment courses at UML through the Northeast Consortium of Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (NECCUM) partnership before transferring to UML in 2018.
Meanwhile, Aguilar landed a full-time job as a research assistant with the MIT Mechanical Engineering Sloan Automotive Laboratory, where he spent four years working for professors and MIT-affiliated startups. In 2018, he became a published author with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
With CADSPARC, Aguilar’s goal is to develop partnerships with local business accelerators and incubators that need help with prototyping for digital manufacturing.
“A lot of technologies are becoming digital and need 3D data,” says Aguilar, whose company was named “Rising Star Supplier of the Year” at a statewide “Celebration of Manufacturing” in 2022. “We’re trying to accelerate innovation by making 3D CAD models for these digital technologies.”
He is also giving back. CADSPARC hosted a two-week “Hacking for Design” summer camp for 14 Haverhill high school students interested in 3D printing. The free program was funded by the city of Haverhill.
“It feels great to be able to apply what I learned in school in the real world,” Aguilar says. “This is definitely my dream job.”