Interview with Protocow Founder On Finding the Next Shapeways 3D Printing Service
Protocow Wants to Help Smaller 3D Printing Services with New Software
Earlier this week, Protocow launched an e-commerce platform that enables 3D printing services to offer online quotes and order fulfillment.
This allows smaller 3D printing services to automatically process their online orders and compete on service with the larger companies such as Shapeways, Materialise and Sculpteo. Protocow offers this service for a low monthly fee and per-order commission.
“Last year, $800 million was spent on objects that were 3D printed on a professional printer,” explained Protocow. “This market is growing 25% per year and 80% of this market is being produced by smaller 3D printing companies, including 500 such companies located in Europe. A lot of these companies handle their orders via email which is quite labor-intensive. Furthermore, it is discouraging for website visitors to order via personal contact such as email.”
Protocow’s solution is a plugin called the STL Harvester that can process 3D models and provide online pricing within 30 minutes. Watch the video below to see how the company describes its service.
Protocow is based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and was founded by Harold van der Hoeven, John Tillema, Dimer Schaefer and Raymond Muilwijk. They have deployed the platform in The Netherlands and Belgium and are looking for funding to expand.
Interview with Protocow Founder
We sat down with Protocow co-founder Harold van der Hoeven to learn more about his business.
On 3D Printing: Tell us about your inspiration for the STL Harvester.
Protocow: The inspiration for developing the Harvester had its origin with two of our team members, John Tillema and Dimer Schaefer. They are industrial designers by profession. On a regular basis they were facing the fact that Materialise and Shapeways could not fulfill their service- , budget- or delivery needs. And although smaller 3D print service are more flexible, they do not offer online quoting and ordering. Asking them why, they answered it is to expensive and complex to develop this software for themselves. So we decided to do that for them.
On 3D Printing: When did you start the company and what are the key milestones you have hit?
Protocow: We started the company almost a year ago (December 2012). We have worked on this beside our regular business in evenings and weekends and we love our wives for all the support we received.
We have hit a few milestones. First we did test the concept with several 3D print services. They helped us with several insights which we used to improve our formula, the contact options with options during the ordering process and the additional techniques we did not yet cover. We are proud that importers of 3D print machines embraced our online platform because it is good for the revenue of their customers (and therefor for them). We also found out that it is possible to calculate a fair price for a 3D print using different (more) variables then the larger companies who already have online quotation and ordering.
On 3D Printing: Who are your customers? Your video says “3D printing services”. Can you give us some examples or help provide some size estimates of the total number of companies that could benefit from your product?
Protocow: Our customers are professional 3D print services. We calculated that there are approximately 500 professional 3D print services in Europe who do not offer online quotation and ordering tot their website visitors.
Learn more at www.protocow.com.