We’ve been following the odyssey of Czech Republic-based Y Soft for some time now, most recently covering the release of their SafeQ software platform and the global availability of the YSoft be3D eDee 3D printer. Among the many qualities that have always made this company stand out among the masses is its dedication to workflow and technological integration. With operations increasingly spanning the globe — including subsidiaries in the US, Japan, Singapore, Israel, the UAE, and other countries — as well as Y Soft’s venture arm, appropriately called Y Soft Ventures, targeted toward startups in Central Europe, much of the vision behind Y Soft can be traced back to one man.
Václav Muchna, Y Soft’s CEO, Co-Founder, and Chairman of the Board, has been working on software development, network administration, and keeping customers central to business ventures since his mid-teens. From partnerships with a small group of others, developing several projects early on his career path, Muchna ultimately co-founded Y Soft in 2000. The Brno-based operation has always had the vision of ‘a global organization that operates without borders’. Muchna’s vision for the company has spurred its global expansion, establishment of Y Soft Ventures, and customer-focused company growth. He is known at Y Soft for his investments in tech, people, and the company culture — and with a reputation like that, who wouldn’t be eager to learn more about both the man and the company?
I recently had the opportunity to ask A Few Questions For Muchna for this week’s Wednesday interview, to find out more about Y Soft — and its vision for 3D printing — right from the source.
We’ve been following Y Soft’s involvement in the 3D printing space for some time now; can you fill us in on how Y Soft initially came to be interested in participating in 3D printing solutions?
Y Soft initially enabled customers to manage their 2D print fleets, helping them control costs and increase the security of sensitive documents. Over the years, more and more customers have asked for help in increasing productivity through better workflows. So what does this have to do with 3D printers?
Well, we see that 3D printing is making its way into businesses and academic institutions. Customers see the value in fast prototyping, and educators see how 3D printing captures the imagination of students. Whether a workplace or a campus, there is a need to control costs and usage, as well as making sure the workflow of 3D objects is as efficient as possible. In a way, just as 2D printers came into our business lives, 3D printers are now here, and it is a natural evolution that print management extends to 3D printers, too.
Where does Y Soft envision 3D printing’s place in the coming years?
One of the most important things to consider for workflow efficiency with 3D printers is that, just like their 2D printer cousins, they can be networked. When we think about 3D printers today, most people think of them as stand-alone devices, but as companies start to rely on them for prototyping or for low-volume manufacturing, they will need more than one, and more people will need to access them. It is too early to say that they will become as ubiquitous as 2D printers, but as 3D technology evolves, price points will decrease which will drive even more demand. We believe the biggest impact will not be in the consumer arena but in business for faster, more efficient product development.
One of the reasons we bought a 3D printer company is because we knew that print management would be needed for 3D printers, and when we looked around to see which printers we could integrate our YSoft SafeQ solution with, we found that 3D printers are effectively “closed” systems. No one has an SDK, so we decided to buy a 3D printer company and do the integration ourselves. We do believe, however, that other 3D printing companies will want to ultimately enter the business market because customers want systems that work together.
It’s possible to integrate YSoft SafeQ with other 3D printers, and we are open to doing so.
How did feedback from early users in the SafeQ 6 platform’s several months being vetted in an Early Access Release program impact the recent full release?
Our latest version of YSoft SafeQ is a turning point for us. It is now a workflow solutions platform. As mentioned earlier, customers want systems that work together. As a platform, we can add modules and connections to other enterprise systems. Today, our platform offers print management, document capture and workflow (another area that has great demand as customers want to digitize their content), and 3D print management. Feedback from our Early Access Release program has confirmed our platform approach. We’ve seen terrific feedback on the document capture and workflow capabilities, which has given us good direction on features to focus on for upcoming minor releases. On YSoft be3D eDee we work directly with schools where the system is in use and have learned a lot about how instructors integrate 3D printing into their curriculum and how they prefer to make the printers directly available to students.
Customers and partners have always liked the fact that our solution is modular. This means they don’t have to buy an entire solution and pay for parts that they don’t use. We’ve kept that tradition with the new YSoft SafeQ platform. No two companies are alike in what they need, where they are in their digital transformation or adoption of 3D printing in their business processes. With this new version, the document capture and workflow are the most anticipated new features. On the 3D side, we offer YSoft be3D eDee, our 3D print management and accounting system, specifically designed for the education market. Interestingly, we hear from manufacturing segments that there is a need for 3D print workflow, too.
Y Soft and be3D have been tied together since November 2014. What initially drew Y Soft to be3D? How has this involvement been perceived so far?
The impetus was our desire to integrate print management with 3D printers. We see a growing need for this as multiple 3D printers come into an organization or school and get on the network. And since none of the existing 3D printers were open for such integration we decided to buy a 3D printer manufacturer.
Oddly enough, when we started looking at this, we met David Miklas, the founder of be3D in San Francisco. This was serendipitous because Y Soft and be3D are both Czech companies. Being Czech companies, we shared the same cultural background, so it was a great fit. Our customers and partners recognize the innovation we have developed together and the reaction has been very positive.
Initially, as a young startup, be3D looked to play in the hobbyist market but that segment has many players, is very competitive and isn’t focused on output quality. Y Soft’s focus has always been on B2B, which includes the education market. We see the biggest value in this area. It closely aligns with our mission of providing intelligent enterprise office solutions that help customers build smart businesses through better processes.
Can you tell us any future plans Y Soft may have in the works?
The great response we’ve had to our YSoft be3D eDee in education has sparked interest from the manufacturing segment. We do offer a large 3D printer model, YSoft be3D DeeRed, and there is interest for print management and accounting system integration for devices of this size, too. And, since YSoft SafeQ is a workflow solutions platform, we see value in adding other, business process-oriented solutions to the platform. There is still a lot we can do with the existing capabilities in document capture and workflow, as well.
In the print management area, we have demand for new efficient workflows, and I’m sure we’ll see similar demand for that on the 3D side. We talk to customers, analysts and the market in general to understand what is needed and to anticipate where the market is headed. Sometimes we take big bets, as we have in 3D printing, because we believe in it and see its potential. Overall, it is a great time for innovation in business.
With all these developments coming out, and clear ideas for what is next to come, it seems that Y Soft is certainly a company to keep on our radar — stay tuned for further updates as we continue to learn more about this European operation, right from the source! Discuss further in the Y Soft 3D Printing, Expansion & CEO Interview forum over at 3DPB.com.