the-element
Wireless Technologies

Dutch startup Printr avoids Kickstarter pitfalls and secures funding

Back in February last year, we covered Printr as part of our Crowdfunding Innovation series. The Dutch startup was hoping to raise $100,000 to fund the Element; a plug and play attachment designed to streamline the 3D printing experience.

Originally a project born at the University of Twente, future Printr CEO, Douwe Bart Mulder, wanted to build more user-friendly software for a 3D printer he had bought with a fellow student. “Together we took on the challenge of building this and after a few months we realized that we could turn it into a business.”

In the spring of 2014 the company joined Startupbootcamp’s E&M commerce program, and then raised a seed round from friends and family and set up a Kickstarter campaign. Despite raising nearly $45,000, Printr’s Kickstarter campaign wasn’t a success. “The biggest lesson we learned was that we have to set the right goals,” says Mulder. “[It was] definitely a tough lesson at the time but very valuable for us down the road. We got to improve the story and had great people invest time and money in us.”

He also says he would “definitely” run another campaign in the future. “Even though the campaign wasn’t fully funded it was a great experience from which we all learned a lot. Also the contacts and coverage you get are very valuable for the launch of the product.”

Undeterred, the company has recently secured over $700,000 in funding.  Although small-fry compared to some of the VC money floating around, the funding will allow Printr to grow the team and set up the production line for The Element. “Our long term business plan is to be the point of interaction between people and 3D printers, charging a license fee for our software.”

Since the project, Mulder says innovation in the 3D printing industry has forced the company to give the Element and its accompanying FormideOS a tweak; a complete overhaul of the UI and some refinement to the physical product chief amongst the changes. “We want the user to have a great experience with our product from the moment they hold the box in their hand through their first print.”

The hardware-side of 3D printing gets better and cheaper over time due to efficiency – but the software side of 3D printing can only get better with innovation. Do you think there’s enough innovation occurring in the software side of things?

This is the reason why we got into software for 3D printing. We saw that there was a lot of things we could contribute. At this moment we see a lot of innovation happening in software for 3D printing which is great. Everyone at Printr enjoys being able to contribute to what we consider the final industrial revolution!

Can you explain what the FormideOS is and how it aims to help 3D Printing?

FormideOS is built from the ground up to take care of the entire 3D printing process, from content creation, to preparation, to the drivers that move your printer to complete a print.

The way it was designed is to take care of all the settings that other software requires. Of course we enable the users to still configure and tweak everything as they please. The level of productivity you can reach by having the software automatically detect the optimal settings however is unlike anything else in the industry.

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Are you competing with the likes of Autodesk’s Spark platform or 3DPrinterOS, and what makes Formide different?

Looking at the product vision Printr has more similarities to Autodesk’s platform than 3DPrinterOS. 3DPrinterOS is very similar to FormideOS but Printr as a company provides a broader product range.

The biggest difference between Spark and Formide is the tailor-made solutions that we deliver. Together with the manufacturers of the 3D printers we will find the most optimal way to implement our software while giving advice on the whole printer design. We believe that hardware and software are closely intertwined and the way they are connected is what makes the difference between a good and a great user experience.

Gartner says 3D printing is two to five years away from widespread enterprise adoption and at least five to 10 years away from mainstream consumer adoption – do you agree, and what do you think are major hurdles the industry needs to overcome?

I personally believe that this is a very fair estimate. The industry needs to be a lot more user friendly before mainstream adoption will become a thing. That is also the reason why we are in this business. Our goal is to help cross this chasm between the innovators, early adopters and the early majority. Looking at how many businesses around us [have] already started to use 3D printing widespread enterprise adoption might be closer to the two than five though!

Do you think we’ll eventually see a 3D printer in every home or will it be more of an order through 3D printing service-type model?

Considering we are moving more and more to a sharing economy where the ownership of something is not as important as the accessibility of the service I would expect that a service model would fit best. I would however love to see the real Star Trek food replicator in every house, printing your favourite food with the press of a button!

The 3D printer space is very crowded at the moment; big companies like HP and Autodesk, compete with specialists like Makerbot and 3D Systems plus dozens of smaller startups. Are we going to see the market consolidate in the near future, and which companies do you think will become the major players?

This is a very difficult question to answer since the industry is changing fast. Given this fact it can be expected that only the most adaptable companies can become major players in this field. The big companies like Makerbot and 3D Systems seem to have been in a bit of trouble recently, this can be a temporary issue but it shows that even in 3D printing there is no-one “too big to fail”.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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