Today we will be doing an interview with David Calderon from the CASTOR team. CASTOR is a decision support system for utilizing industrial 3D printing. They connect manufacturers to 3D printing capabilities. This helps to enhance their business while they try to leverage technical expertise. They are a startup that is based in Tel Aviv and have been featured as a startup in TechStars. David is a co-founder and Vice President of Business Operations for CASTOR.
Who is CASTOR?
Omer, Elad, and I are the founders of CASTOR and long-time friends. The three of us come from diverse backgrounds in the tech industry and together we looked at the ever-evolving 3D printing industry. We realized that manufacturers face two main issues when it comes to 3D printing: one technical and one financial.
On the technical front, manufacturers must have extensive material, and printer knowledge and understand the limitations of the different 3D printing processes. Because this industry is changing so quickly, it’s hard to develop the extensive knowledge and expertise needed in-house. On the financial front, manufacturers need to know when the 3D printing of parts can result in cost savings and when it doesn’t. This calculus depends on the manufacturing quantity, geometry of the parts, the technology and material used, and many other factors.
We have developed a decision support system that addresses these two issues by helping manufacturers understand when 3D printing is preferred over traditional manufacturing methods, and significantly reduce the lead-time and cost for parts.
Our team has significant experience. Omer Blaier, our CEO, previously worked for Stratasys in several positions in the intersection between product and R&D. He was able to see the gap between how fast 3D printing technologies are developing and the end user’s lack of information and expertise to really utilize the full benefits of 3D printing.
Elad Schiller, our CTO, has been coding and leading teams of developers of enterprise software for more than a decade. He has the rare ability to simplify complex technical data while creating user-friendly interfaces.
I oversee business development and sales. I draw from my experience as a Senior Manager at EY where I dealt with dozens of companies, from early-stage startups to publicly traded companies in the tech sector.
In terms of IOT and 3D Printing, what are the core competencies needed for a company to do well?
Since the 3D printing field is still defining itself and evolving rapidly (in terms of applications and also technologies), I think a company must be agile, able to learn quickly, and adjust its product offering in response to the frequent changes this market is experiencing. While there are some market leaders in this space, the technology is still in the adoption phase, so even well-established companies can lose their competitive advantage if they fail to adapt to the changes quickly.
Another very important core competency I would highlight is the ability to focus on areas where 3D printing can make a big difference. We often hear from our customers that they spend weeks on screening parts in huge assemblies to find potential parts which are suitable for 3D printing. At CASTOR, we believe that automating this time-consuming screening process will allow engineers to focus more on creating real value in terms of shortening lead-time and cost savings and subsequently create more success stories using 3D printing.
If someone has no idea about IOT and 3D Printing, how would they need to educate themselves? What kind of projects can one do with their standard 3D Printing setups available to them?
There is a wealth of professional material on the industry. To gain a basic understanding of the different types of technologies, materials, and their applications, I would check out resources like 3DPrint.com, service bureaus like Shapeways or Materialise, and 3D printer manufacturers like Stratasys, HP or EOS.
Once someone decides to use 3D printing, the second step is to use tools that provide detailed feedback on the parts the person wants to produce. CASTOR might be a good place to start since we provide our customers with transparency as to why parts pass or fail our 3D printability analysis and what needs to be done in order to fix the part and make it 3D printable. We think this information should be easily understood by all members of the team and not just an AM expert, which is why we focus on providing simple answers to this complex problem.
The team is based in Tel Aviv. How does this affect interactions with the technology sector as most development done is in different locations within the world? How are you positioned?
These days physical location isn’t a barrier of entry when it comes to technology. There are so many great tools that bridging the distance gap, so it really comes down to a simple question: does the technology solve a major problem and how good is the solution?
As for CASTOR’s positioning, we believe that our position in the value chain of 3D printing allows us to build great relationships with almost all the players in the 3D printing market. For example, we help service bureaus gain more business by referring them more customers with parts which are 3D printable. Similarly, we are able to build great relationships with the 3D printer manufacturers because we can help their customers immediately decide which parts should be 3D printed with their newly bought printer. As for the material companies, we provide them aggregated data that will help them understand what the users are looking for in a material in order to develop their next generation of materials.
So you guys have experience with the Stanley+Techstars accelerator program. Can you explain how this process went and how it has helped in your growth as an organization?
Our main goal in joining this specific accelerator program was to get focused customer feedback to help us achieve product-market fit. As part of the program, we met with hundreds of mentors (entrepreneurs, engineers, consultants, investors, etc.), who are experts in their field, and were able to discuss different aspects of our business with them. We also received feedback on the product which was very useful. Participating in such a unique program enabled us to speed through this process which otherwise would have been extremely lengthy.
Moreover, the fact that a corporate company like Stanley Black & Decker, a Fortune 500 company, was significantly involved in the process, allowed us to learn about the product and sail cycles in larger enterprises. We also made some great friendships with fellow entrepreneurs, the Stanley+Techstars accelerator program staff and mentors. The accelerator was a phenomenal success for us.
What is the five year plan?
Our plan in the short term is to constantly improve the service we are providing our customers. We plan to do this by making the software customizable while maintaining relatively low complexity and also by integrating CASTOR with CAD and ERP systems. We are not looking to create a solution to every problem in 3D printing. Instead, we strongly believe in partnerships which enhance both parties’ abilities and provide a seamless solution to the user. In the long term, we plan to make CASTOR a more robust solution by building machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities which will enable us to offer the user design changes in order to make parts 3D printable.
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