We’ve been following the Printr story since their debut in 2014 and from the first, the company’s mission has been clear: make 3D printing more accessible and enhance the user experience. While a lot has changed both in the industry and for Printr the company over the last three years, their focus on this front has been unwavering. The Netherlands-based company is a startup full of youthful energy tinged with a mature understanding of what truly adds value to the 3D printing experience, and they are continuing to maneuver to be in the best position to move forward.
The ways in which Printr has gone about enhancing the entire process have been evolving over time and continue to evolve as both industry and company continue to grow. This week, I caught up with CEO and co-founder Douwer Bart Mulder to hear more about how the company has been doing; after all, it’s been about six months since we last had the opportunity for an in-depth chat. We had a nice talk at TCT Show in the UK back in September, and ran into each other in passing at CES two months ago without a real chance to chat, so March seemed like a good time to touch base again.
“After CES, we took the time to refocus,” Mulder told me with a smile. “We worked to fix our past mistakes. We are always ambitious, trying to do everything at the same time. We have looked at what the market is moving toward… We look at a narrower focus, the road we’re on, what we are doing. We have our three-to-six month goal.”
That kind of focus is especially important in an industry that many — including Mulder — still liken to the Wild West. With change the only constant, regular reevaluation is a necessity for any participant in 3D printing today, to ensure that plans remain relevant and implementation viable. While it’s not quite a lawless desertscape out there, in some ways the industry isn’t completely far off that, as regulations and intellectual property come into play, companies reorganize, key players shuffle, and technological needs change with every new piece of hardware and with every new software introduction. Taking all the upheaval into account, it becomes clear just why the user experience should be so in focus for a company like Printr.
Mulder filled me in on the plan for the next several months at Printr, as the company is moving away from their well-known Element dongle and more toward a focus on cloud-based offerings on their Formide platform, looking to open up software to more users and take away any barriers possible. Their Formide Pro is especially in focus, as it offers more for users.
“Our main focus is for six months only working with manufacturers,” he told me of the next move for Formide. “We need to look at why are people using our products. Lots of things are changing, lots of things are staying the same.”
Printr, which now operates as a close-knit team of seven, is looking toward the user experience in terms of offerings focusing on their slicer and through integration of Raspberry Pi technology. Mulder noted that users can currently set one line up, it automatically installs, and is ready to go; users can also connect to the cloud and monitor remotely, and with a Formide Pro account can use more data and share print jobs with their team. Printr also provides all information to walk users through the installation process. For the slicer, the focus is additionally on offerings for Pro users, where more features are being added, including region settings and different infill for different parts of a given model.
By looking toward work with manufacturers in particular, Printr is building upon a foundation already well established, as they have been working closely with several companies; indeed, the first time I met Mulder was at the booth for another Dutch company, FELIXprinters, at TCT Show, where partnerships were abundantly in the spotlight. Printr has been working with FELIXprinters since that company got its start.
“It’s not about mechanics, it’s about making it easier for the user. We teamed up with Printr and have been working with them from the very beginning,” FELIXprinters Marketing Specialist Christiaan Rijnhart told me in September, echoing the goal for the Printr experience.
Collaborative efforts underscore a lot about what makes Printr stand apart, as they keep busy with regular partnerships and projects employing 3D printing as a solution — and one that doesn’t have to be as difficult as some new to the tech might initially perceive.
Among the ways Printr has been actively seeking over the last few months to add ease to their offerings is through the February announcement of their Gcode Configurator. While many users may be familiar and comfortable with adjusting their Gcode for each print job, not all are, and so to enhance this process, Printr is making it easy to tweak start and end sequences. Featuring a drag and drop setup (though an advanced tab still lets comfortable coders tap right in), the configurator is pretty easy to work with, as they show:
To access the configurator from Formide, Printr explains that you “go to Manage > Printers > Printer settings and create custom Gcode commands with simple drag and drop tiles.”
Printr recently attended the Netherlands’ RapidPro event earlier this month, where Mulder noted that while this year’s show was smaller than it used to be and some of the space previously dedicated to 3D printing had been given over to AR/VR technologies, there was still a lot to see. The European community for 3D printing solutions is a dynamic one, and Mulder pointed out that the Polish industry in particular has a lot going on lately, with “investors eager to jump on any train that says 3D printing.” We have seen what might seem a surprising amount of tech come out of Poland over the last few years, much of it tracing back to one source, and it sounds like we can expect the country to work to keep in the limelight. Of course, as Printr provides in just one example, the Netherlands is certainly no slouch when it comes to 3D printing, and many of the companies involved in that country are a quick bike ride apart, enhancing opportunities to work literally closely together.
As we wrapped up our wide-ranging chat, I asked Mulder the one question no one likes at an interview: What is your one greatest hope for the next year?
“It’s a bit abstract,” he told me after a moment’s thought, “but providing the easiest user experience for 3D printing. So everyone who wants to get started with it can, without digging through tons of software, have the best, the easiest experience.”
Practicing what they preach, Printr often uses their social media accounts to highlight some of the quick projects they routinely engage in, 3D printing office accessories and other custom-designed products useful in their own lives. This Dutch company, seeking to ease user experience and broaden the reach of 3D printing technology overall, is one to keep an eye on — and it definitely won’t be another half-year before we catch up again with Printr! Discuss in the Printr forum at 3DPB.com.