One of the most common excuses as to why consumer 3D printing has had such a slow adoption rate, is that it can be quite confusing to those of us that are not exactly technically inclined. There is the hardware aspect of it, plus all of the steps needed prior to printing an object. Design software can be extremely confusing, as can the slicing of objects, prior to sending them off to be printed.
3D Printing may seem simple to some, but to others it can seem almost impossible. This is why there is a strong need for innovation, not only on the hardware side of things, but from a software and design standpoint as well.
A company from the Netherlands however, has plans to change this. Printr, a young startup founded by Remco Katz, Douwe Bart Mulder, and Chris ter Beke, is developing a 3D printing platform with plenty of features for both consumers and printers.
“Currently it’s fairly easy to own a 3D printer, but there are still many bridges that need to be crossed before 3D printing can be fully adopted by consumers,” explained Remco Katz, Co-founder of Printr to 3DPrint.com. “We intend to offer a complete solution for every consumer, no matter if they own a 3D printer or not. 3D printing is an exciting process that gives consumers the ultimate creative tool to make anything they want, and Printr makes it as easy as possible for them.”
Ease of use is definitely a factor in helping 3D printing become more mainstream among “normal people,” those that are not all that up-to-date on the latest technology. Katz told us that they are mainly targeting new customers; people who currently don’t use 3D printing. However, they are also aiming to improve the user experience for those who already 3D print on a regular basis.
The Software Problem and How Printr Intends to Solve it
Printr believes that their software makes life easier for consumers, with or without 3D printers. Consumers with a printer can connect to their platform and control every aspect of the 3D printing process from a website dashboard.
Those consumers that don’t own a 3D printer can use Printr’s 3D printing app section to design their models, and then use connected print partners to have their models printed and sent to their homes. On top of this, besides allowing consumers to connect to these 3rd party print partners and apps, they can also connect to their favorite 3D model repositories and print out models of their choosing. This creates the possibility of opening an app, selecting a model that you wish to print from a website such as Thingiverse, and having that model printed out with the click of a few buttons.
The Hardware Solution
The Printr hardware solution will allow individuals to control their 3D printers from anywhere in the world, using both traditional and mobile apps.
For those people who connect their 3D printers to Printr, they will be able to control their printers right from the Printr website, using their client software. This software can be easily installed on a Raspberry Pi, or other linux based machine. Printr also plans on releasing a Plug & Play hardware solution with their software pre-installed on it, which will be compatible with every operation system.
It doesn’t end here though. There is another very interesting option available as well. That option is the ability to allow others to use your 3D printer in order to print out their own objects, and in turn earn you some extra cash while doing so. Most people who own 3D printers only print on them a few hours a week. The rest of the time, these printers are just taking up space and not being used. Printr allows the owners of these 3D printers to basically rent out use of their printers in exchange for a payment.
The Printr API will allow developers to make apps, either inside the Printr platform or as standalone products. Currently they are looking for app developers to focus on the design portion of the 3D printng process.
“In order for 3D printing to become more than a geek toy it needs to work as an appliance, requiring no additional knowledge about the technology,” said Katz. “Apps can be a great tool to turn your imagination into reality.”
There is no official launch date as of yet, but Printr hopes to launch sometime in the first week of July. Currently they are opening a BETA testing period starting this coming Monday, May 19 at midnight ET. You can sign up to be notified of the BETA launch via the Printr website.
During the BETA phase, these are the features that will be made available:
– Upload files and print them
– Control your 3D printer from the Printr dashboard (only basic features & Raspberry Pi required.)
– Preview files in a 3D viewer
– Automatic slicing & repairing of 3D models
– Control your print queue (multiple printers)
– Print files directly from our model database
– Hot swapping between printers (when SD card is available in the 3D printer)
– Suggest features through our internal forum
– Manage your Printr account
– Stay updated about upcoming features
– Report problems
Here is a brief video demonstration of Printr in action.
“Our goal is to make the service available for free,” explained Douwe Bart Mulder, Co-founder and Developer at Printr. “That means, we don’t want to make money on people using the platform to print for themselves. However, if you order a 3D print from another printer, or via the app (at a professional 3D print shop) we take a percentage of the order as a fee.”
The Printr platform will support most open source 3D printers including Makerbot, Ultimaker, RepRap, etc. from the start. However, they plan on supporting other 3D printers as well, and they are working closely with FabLab Enschede, Kennispark Twente, Microsoft and other partners to start supporting these other 3D printers as soon as possible.
What do you think? Would you be interested in using a product like Printr? What types of feaures would you be interested in? Discuss in the Printr thread on 3DPB.com
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