So many people from all walks of life are experimenting with 3D printing across the world. Not just hobbyists but people aspiring to build a small business from their garages and basements. Expanding out perhaps into small business units and then who knows. Well that is how it started late last year for Robin De Kat, a good French friend of 3DPrintWise.
Robin was a founder of 3DPrintWise but quickly decided that working in English tired him out too much. Amicably, he decided to move on and build a a small 3D printer service based in South West France, about 50km from the beautiful city of Bordeaux. Far more exciting than running a web site. He will always be considered as one of the 3DPrintWise crew though.
We caught up with Robin just last week to find out how he’s been doing. Well things have gone very well for him. Robin is now 3D printing regularly for a small group of local clients with his LeapFrog (Creatr Model) 3D printer and he is seriously considering buying another.
As he explains (translation),
“the problem is that once you have some clients, you quickly find out that one of the most important things to them is speed. Clients want their 3D prints – yesterday. They don’t want to wait.”
He went on,
“With one or two machines, it soon becomes apparent that you have a classic manufacturing dilemma. You just can’t meet the customer expectations for turnaround times without investing in more machines. And then, what happens in idle times when the demand drops off as it surely does. It is a classic manufacturing and investment problem. You also have to start building processes to support the business … “
And then a bit of a shock. Robin has invested in building another much larger business where he hopes to be a major player in the supply of filament for 3D printing in France. Suitably impressed, he was asked about the strategy and rationale behind his new business.
Editor: “Is there any point to competing with the Chinese suppliers who push filament through Amazon etc? Even 3DPrintWise supplies filament via Amazon.”
Robin appeared unfazed and got into his stride, laying it all out:
“In nearly every country, France included, the filament comes from China. That means shipping cost and various stages of warehousing. Especially, if you wish to supply a good variety of product. Prices are only going to rise as manufacturers costs also increase. China is no exception.”
“Cheapness is a bit of Chinese marketing propaganda in my opinion. The end customer is going to be paying for that at some point.”
“There is also a question of quality and guaranteeing it. We lose time having to check quality of our supplies. At filament-abs.fr (French), we have engaged a number of plastic manufacturers in France to produce filament for 3D printing. The final price is going to be similar and the quality will be guaranteed before it even reaches us. We are able to also monitor the quality of supply and correct issues quickly.”
“Of course we know that many consumers will go to Amazon as they will be price sensitive down to a few centimes per spool but those who are running 3D printing businesses have indicated they would prefer a local supplier. They want relationships and quality assurance built in. Filament-abs.fr is intending to meet that requirement as we move this summer from supplying Chinese manufactured filament (currently) and replace it with a supply of French made filament.”
We wish Robin lots of luck. It is going to be tough, even in a country like France, well known for its patriotic purchasing habits. This all poses a question. Will we see more manufacturing of filament for 3D printers in our own backyards?