3DPrintus. Printing real things
- What are you placing your stake on? - Market is young but it grows rapidly, and we are among the first who started doing it in Russia. We have a strong team, smart processes for lean startup, we know what we do, where to go and how to evolve.
Did Russia miss revolution in 3D printing? Not yet. However, taking into account that domestic business tends to live as if there is no time, and strive for instant profits on outdated facilities, there is a risk that large enterprises will miss the moment when production will alter beyond recognition. Of course, 3D printers will not displace traditional plants. The consequences of their distribution in the next 5-10 years are as follows: creation and production of products will simplify and accelerate, delivery period will reduce, including the parts to be replaced; geographical locations of plants will change: reduction of staff and premises will make it possible to move closer to consumer; young and flexible companies will have chances.
And since at the very the start decisions "from head to tail" are taken faster, the chances of start-ups in this sector increase by several times. For those who are not willing to invest large sums in purchase of equipment, there is another very promising way: to mediate between developers, users and owners of industrial 3D printers.
3Dprintus, founders of online platform for personal 3D printing, decided to create infrastructure, or as it is now fashionable to say today, ecosystems. Of course, they will not make real aircraft or tank, but are able to make any small model, figure or embody idea. Designers will draw, and company's partners - owners of expensive professional machines – will bring it to life. And it can be done in any color and of any material. Marginality of this business, by the way, is 30-50%.
Peculiarities of three-dimensional printing
There are professional 3D printers – their price starts from 100 000 dollars, they are rather big and require expensive consumables. "Consumer" printers working on FDM technology are desktop machines; the simplest of this kind can be purchased for around $500. It's like comparing a professional camera and camera in phone - the difference in quality, capabilities, colors and materials is rather big, but still you can use it.
Some 3D printers print with metal, others – with plastic, some make prototypes of gypsum. There is a large number of different materials. Seeing the machine in operation is breathtaking: there is an object growing from nowhere in front of your eyes - take it and enjoy it. Using laser, factory settings laser layer by layer create parts from powder - dust. Amateur printers make things heating material and exerting pressure.
But to print the object, it must first be modeled on computer. And to do this, special software is required. "We made a platform for 3D printing of customized products. Ie we design popular patterns, which can be complemented with your details and "wishes". We also help our clients to develop their ideas from scratch. And we start from the pictures on screen and move its material embodiment. Orders are placed at our partners’ - owners of industrial 3D printers. And after seven to ten days the customer receives the finished item. You can download and print the model yourself. In any case the platform is the start for enthusiast," Konstantin Ivanov explains the essence of 3DPrintus idea.
The project was launched in early 2013. Co-founders of 3DPrintus - Konstantin Ivanov, Yevgeny Ginzburg and Dmitry Maslennikov - docked growing demand for personalization of surrounding things and mass distribution of 3D printers. "We have studied foreign projects, the most successful of them have been working for several years – these are shapeways.com, i.materialise.com, sculpteo.com, twikit.com. Also we realized that none of them is going to work in Russia - mainly because of logistics. In March we started to analyze the market, examine how people respond to offer. Until summer we led project almost manually. We got a few hundred subscribers, and it became clear that there is no market yet and it will take a long time to shake it. Initially we were thinking about printing dolls - small copy of the person, but then realized it was too niche product. However, in the summer we began to recruit a team and try to carry out orders," Ivanov says.
For all participants of the project this was not the first business. They are well known people in start-up circle. Konstantine, for example, has been taking part in different projects such as a design studio and digital-agency since he was 18 years old. Dmitriy and Eugene worked at start-up accelerator MetaBeta, which became seed investor, giving 3DPrintus about 20 thousand dollars. In summer of 2013 in cooperation with Yandex, MetaBeta organized summer camp and competition of projects. The idea of 3D printing was presented at the competition - and reached the final. By autumn 3DPrintus received investment of 130 thousand dollars from two more sources. Then, having got a full team, they began to work in earnest. The company decided on three reference points: 1) to create a product, 2) to form a community, 3) establish a partnership both with modelers who could expose them to download for royalty, and with owners of industrial printing equipment.
Clients and their benefits
3DPrintus has 2 areas of work: b2c and b2b. The first is to bring a lot of inexpensive orders, the second shall differ with big budget and consistency. For a small business both spread of 3D printers, and work with special platform for modeling , which allows to use industrial machine for single order, really opens up great prospects. The fact is that the most expensive is to develop the first master model, because it has to be designed. The rest is the cost of consumables and payment to intermediaries, small changes do not increase the price a lot. In general, 3D printing is financially justified if creating up to a hundred identical small objects. It is better to place larger orders on core businesses.
List of b2c customer includes designers, architects, sculptors, engineers, gamers and those wishing to print a very unusual thing, for example a gift. This may be a large corporate customer who decided to be original. b2b clients are developers and engineering companies, banking groups, prototyping shops.
A separate niche is owners of home used 3D printers. As of today these are rather expensive toys. But quality of printing and their opportunities are growing faster than, say, new models of smartphones are released. Thus the cost of devices and consumables decreases. Most likely, in five years such printer will be easy to find in every home in the developed countries. At this you’ll have to take pattern of things somewhere. And 3DPrintus founders expect to meet the emerging high demand.
Among the most interesting orders Konstantin Ivanov mentions brass coin with logo of Bitcoins, unrecognized by global financial community, exhibition model of car "Volga-21" of nearly two feet length, the miniature " Macs" made to the 30th anniversary of this computer. And there are hundreds of less intricate projects. These are customized covers for smart phones, unique eyeglass frames, company logos ... Of course, most of printed figures are simply for fan, products for mood. However, for example, making one detail to replace in any domestic machine can save time and extend the life of your gadget.
The cost of the order depends on what customer comes to 3Dprintus with. "Customers can be divided into two types: professional designers who already have 3D model, and private clients and companies who have only an idea of what they want to print. In first case price shall be calculated on the basis of cost of 1 cu cm of 3D model volume of the selected material. In second case the cost is calculated on the basis of the cost of 3D modeling and 3D printing," Konstantin says. 3DPrintus is not going to stop at this kind of monetization, he says. "We started with agency model, and now proceed to building e-commerce- platform for customers and designers, where we take a commission for the purchase of models, 3D printing and order of 3D modeling in designers’ community".
Founders of 3DPrintus platform are not going to buy their own 3D printers yet.
"To do it we will have to attract about 10 million dollars investments that will pay off for several years. Thus it is important to shake the market. Now there is almost no market at all, but later it will be the driver of our growth as well," Konstantin Ivanov explains the strategy. It turned out to be advantageous to establish a partnership with the owners of industrial machines. Not all of their capacities are loaded, and about two dozen companies in Russia, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine have expressed their readiness to cooperate. However, according to Konstantine, there are five main partners: "We have set business processes and best prices that we are offering to our customers - with our margin of course. And we do all marketing and customer service."
Designers who share their 3D models, get royalty for each download. Everybody is happy. And major jackpot goes to intermediary, and that is 3DPrintus. It may seem that in non-existing market there are no professionals who are able to make models suitable for downloading and implementation. But Konstantine says that it was people who have found them. The fact is that professionals in related fields that start dealing with 3D printing need only additional skills: "For example, sculptors. They existed in the digital world, but were doing it on the screen. Design is always tied to production methods. Therefore they will have to be retrained. This is not long – it is enough to train with five to ten models. Software can automatically correct some errors. At this designers can monetize their developments, each time getting royalty. Although in our country this system is still to be set as well. One can create a model not having basic skills. You will just need more training," Ivanov explains.
By the way, in the long term entrepreneurs are hoping to develop the software so that it could automatically calculate the cost of the order. Then the client will only have to download ready-made model, click on the button and send the order for production. And 3DPrintus will only pack it and deliver.
12 people work in 3Dprintus. These are business developers, customer managers, marketers, developers and designers, experts in SMM & PR. Most likely, they all get a small salary and promise of great prospects. Most of the money, according to Konstantine, is actually spent on team that does the whole business, develops technology platform, at this advertising takes about 20%. The tools are social media, e-mail-marketing, contextual advertising, exhibitions and conferences, affiliate programs.
Average ticket of 3DPrintus in b2c segment is 4.5 thousand, b2b segment - 25-50 thousand RUB. Monthly gain of customers is 30%. However the project has not reached breakeven point yet: monthly turnover is about 100-200 thousand RUB, expected growth is 20-30%. According to Ivanov, "with our average tickets 100-150 orders per month is achievable." Margin in this business is high: "Since we are dealing with industrial 3D production , the cost has been largely dependent on the technology used and material used for 3D printing. Margin is at the level of 30-50%."
Often, many companies that are ahead of the market do not survive till demand emerges. But 3D printing market is growing; according to various estimates, it grows by 50% per year, so the project is likely to see mass demand.