Entrepreneur Ricardo Ferrer Rivero decided he would use 3D printing to build a merchant payment system that would let him bypass bankers, and so he settled on building terminals to allow those merchants to accept Bitcoin.
The Hanover, Germany company Ferrer founded came about when he realized lots of restaurants and stores in Germany accept cash only. He says credit card acceptance by merchants has lagged behind due to the often high fees business owners are charged to accept debit cards. Ferrer then gathered a group of developers, technologists and industrial designers and tasked them with creating a 3D printed Bitcoin point of sale terminal – and it’s free to use.
But the project didn’t just drop out of a clear blue sky. Before Ferrer and his team set to work, he polled local merchants for their opinions on Bitcoin. While many expressed concern that working with Bitcoin would be complex and complained that the digital currency was still too volatile for day to day use, Ferrer was undeterred.
As he considered the idea further and sought advice from friends, he was convinced that developing rules for a Bitcoin standard could be simple and present a low risk for merchants. But it had to be easy for consumers to use as well. He and his team bought up a pile of Google Nexus 7 phones, and then installed the latest version of Android on them. Next, they customized the hardware and software needed to make it all work together.
Once Ferrer had the hardware issues solved, he got backing from BitPay to serve as the payment processor and to help develop a system custom-tailored to Hanover merchants which would address the risks of price fluctuation on the Bitcoin market.
After a few bouts of soldering, he and his team managed to configure their POS terminal well enough to get merchants on board. Once that was complete, the industrial design team arrived at a design for a 3D printed housing which would hold the phones and complete the look.. The industrial design for the terminals was tuned by Pey co-founders, Studio Dreimann, and Ferrer says planning sessions for the third version of the terminal are already underway. Ferrer believes that the recent introduction of Apple Pay forced him to take a hard look at how a mobile payment platform should operate.
An iOS developer was enlisted after expressing interest in the project, and the result was that the app they created is capable of launching a number of different Bitcoin wallets. The project officially took off when the team formed a company, called Pey, and now some 50 merchants in Hanover say they’ll accept Bitcoin. Ferrer says a dozen of the units are now installed in stores, but the target is to have 100 soon.
There is certainly a healthy incentive involved to help sell the idea and the system. Pey is handing the terminal and the software, and they’re covering the cost of the necessary Internet connection in the bargain.
“We currently charge no fee, basically because we see ourselves as a hardware company,” says Ferrer. “So we’re giving it to people and trying to learn from it.”
At some point, Pey wants to sell or lease the terminals, but Ferrer says that won’t happen until the current system can be tested and tweaked to his satisfaction. He added that the next iteration of the terminals will be built on Raspberry Pi.
And are there enough merchants on board to make taking up Pey worthwhile?
At this point you can rent a ‘coworking’ space, have a couple of beers and snacks at The Harp Pub, order a cheeseburger at Ohnesorg Burgerbar, book a trip through TUI Reisebüro, have your hair styled at Trionauten für Linden, purchase camera equipment at Enjoyyourcamera, pay for a tour of the Das kleine Museum, and commission an ad campaign through neuwaerts (an advertising agency), so you be the judge.
What role do you think 3D printing will play in the future of product design? Does this kind of project demonstrate that 3D printing is providing entrepreneurs a new entree into various business models that they wouldn’t otherwise have? Let us know what you think in the Bitcoin Entrepreneur 3D Prints A POS Terminal forum thread on 3DPB.com.