Fighting Chaos with Software: Printr Seeks to Offer Custom Solutions in 3D Printing
As superhero movie after superhero movie hit our screens (I finally watched Batman v Superman on my flight home from the UK a week ago), we all become familiar with supervillainous phraseology, especially the chaotic “Some men just want to watch the world burn,” as Batman’s buddy/butler Alfred reminded him. Of course, Batman and all the rest of the good guys fight this chaos. And right up there with these good guys striving for the opposite of sitting back and watching the world burn are those striving for systematic excellence, streamlining difficult processes and easing users’ experiences with new-to-them techniques. Taking that into the tech sphere, we are increasingly seeing a trend of software striving to catch up to the advances made in hardware; after all, without the computing power to back it up, even the most top-of-the-line latest-and-greatest machine is effectively useless. One such enterprise seeking to bring this order to the chaos that can be 3D printing is Netherlands-based Printr, a company we have followed often since its launch in 2014.
Printr grew out of an accelerator program two years ago and, since then, has gone up to a 15-employee enterprise that has had two successful seed funding rounds. The company has been continuing its innovation, launching the Element dongle early last year to enhance the possibility of remote 3D printer connectivity and monitoring, introducing free Katana software to improve slicing capabilities, and just last month bringing about Donut Wipe Towers to ease dual extrusion printing.
I was able to catch up with Ahmad El-Mohtadi, Head of Business Development at Printr, toward the end of TCT Show last week. I had first run into El-Mohtadi at another booth, as Printr was co-exhibiting with fellow Dutch company FELIXprinters; showcasing the importance of partnerships in 3D printing, Printr had helped significantly in the makeup of the just-launched FELIX Pro 2 desktop 3D printer. Through the use of Printr’s Formide platform, users of the new FELIX Pro 2 are able to take advantage of cloud-based printer sharing and remote printer control, all aimed at enhancing the user’s experience.
“It’s not about mechanics, it’s about making it easier for the users. We teamed up with Printr and have been working with them from the very beginning,” FELIXprinters Marketing Specialist Christiaan Rijnhart told me at the booth.
After having talked with the team at FELIXprinters, I was eager to sit down with El-Mohtadi for a chance to chat about Printr. He filled me in on much of the background of the company, noting that three years ago at TCT Show, the idea for networking 3D printers had sprung, and the team that would become Printr began talking with manufacturers right away. Their flagship partnership is with FELIXprinters, as the two Amsterdam-based companies were able to work closely on development.
“Everything outside the hardware is what Printr offers,” as El-Mohtadi put it. “We offer engineers custom experiences for their 3D printers.”
Printr is driven to become the standard in desktop 3D printers, striving to become the go-to solution for the companies making 3D printers.
“It has to start with the manufacturers for any hope of success for users,” El-Mohtadi told me of Printr’s focus.
With this goal in mind, Printr is hoping to integrate their offerings with as many manufacturers as possible. They have noted of the FELIX Pro 2 that this new printer “surpasses functionality offered at their price point” due to the enhanced software and cloud-based offerings tailored to what FELIXprinters specifically was looking to include in their new machine.
“The companies really making it right now — like Formlabs, Ultimaker, Zortrax — offer an ecosystem. It’s not enough to offer open source and leave it to the user. It’s the responsibility of the manufacturer to offer the full experience,” El-Mohtadi told me emphatically.
That ‘full experience’ drive was what had initially spurred the development of the Element dongle — allowing all users to run the Printr platform. Seeking to not only create the best offerings possible for users, but to really ensure that the capabilities get into the hands of as many users as possible, Printr is making its platform available to users while really targeting integrated custom offerings straight through the manufacturers themselves, starting at the root of any new 3D printing ecosystem.
“From firmware optimization to custom UI, we support desktop manufacturers to provide a complete ecosystem for their user base,” El-Mohtadi said. “It’s important to grow with these partners.”
Printr co-founder and CEO Douwe Bart Mulder joined us toward the end of our chat, filling me in a bit more about Printr’s vision — and, above all else, the sense of enthusiasm palpable from each member of this young team. Mulder shared with me more about his experience with Printr, noting that the company has been a true labor of love with a team of driven individuals behind one strong vision. He further underscored the importance of partnerships in this industry, where bringing different levels and areas of expertise together can benefit a greater product, a fuller ecosystem of offerings drawing from the best of the best.
Mulder and El-Mohtadi were also both enthusiastic about their headquarters in Amsterdam, an area where clearly there is a lot happening right now in 3D printing. After talking with the team from Printr, all I now know is — I have to get to Amsterdam sometime soon! Home to companies like Printr, FELIXprinters, Shapeways, and more, Amsterdam is absolutely a hub of creative energies and strong undertakings in the 3D printing industry today. Discuss further in the Printr 3D Printing Solutions forum over at 3DPB.com.
Below is a video from the Printr team explaining how to start your first print using their Element:
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