Tag Archives: STL

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.

Protocow logo

“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.

Protocow team

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.

Inventor of 3D Printing Chuck Hull Receives Award

“From the get go, I imagined that 3D printing would significantly change design and manufacturing as we know it, but I could not have anticipated the profound impact the technology would have on everything in our lives. It is both humbling and exhilarating to be apart of this incredible transformation.” — Chuck Hull

Chuck Hull, the inventor of 3D printing and founder of 3D Systems, was honored with the George R. Stibitz Computer and Communications Award by Montana State University on October 3, 2013, in Bozeman, MT.

Hull invented the original 3D printing technology, Stereolithography (SLA), and led the development of the .stl file format, which continues to be the gold standard in ultra high-definition 3D printing and CAD connectivity to this day. Hull set to develop additive layer manufacturing to help an ailing automotive industry regain competitive advantage. After years of failed attempts Hull’s perseverance and inventiveness paid off when he successfully printed a teacup on March 9, 1983, and went on to file a patent for what he called Stereolithography and found 3D Systems in 1986.

Chuck Hull Pioneer 3D Printing

Photo: Chuck Hull speaks on the “Pioneers” panel at the Inside 3D Printing San Jose conference

Hull continues to lead the 3D printing revolution as 3D Systems’ Chief Technology Officer, celebrating 30 years of continuous 3D printing innovation and presiding over 7 different 3D print technologies, over 100 materials and 1,200 patents.

The award program was established in 1997 by George Keremedjiev, founder and director of the American Computer and Robotics Museum in Bozeman, MT. Hull is being honored along side the late Walt Disney and John Holland, an expert in complex adaptive systems. MSU will also be honoring primatologist Frans de Waal and 3M executive Jean B. Sweeney with the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award.

Chuck Hull Receives Cube

Photo: Chuck Hull receives his Cube 3D printer

“Seemingly a week cannot pass by without the mention of 3D printing for advanced manufacturing in both the general and technical media,” Keremedjiev said.  “It is, bar none, the ‘hottest’ technology for modern and future manufacturing in the world. In fact, much of President Obama’s and the Congress’ manufacturing initiatives center themselves around the proliferation of Mr. Hull’s invention (3D printing).”

“I am deeply honored to receive the distinguished Stibitz Award alongside innovators who have changed the world and improved the human condition in unimagined and powerful ways,” said Chuck Hull, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, 3D Systems. “From the get go, I imagined that 3D printing would significantly change design and manufacturing as we know it, but I could not have anticipated the profound impact the technology would have on everything in our lives. It is both humbling and exhilarating to be apart of this incredible transformation.”

3D Scanning and Printing Dinosaurs, Open-Sourcing Scientific Data

3D Printing Dinosaurs

In the past, scaling and reproducing fossils was cost prohibitive and was in the domain of artists. Now 3D printers and 3D scanners are affordable, which means that paleontologists can now recreate dinosaurs.

3D Scan and Print Dinosaurs

In the video below, Professor Kenneth Lacovara says ”the best thing you could do in science is to falsify your hypothesis.” 3D digital technology allows scientists to “open-source” their empirical data, including original discoveries like fossils. Now, instead of asking colleagues to fly across the globe to help validate new findings, a scientist can just send a digital file and the finding can be 3D printed at the other end.

3D Scanning Fossils

Scanning fossils has further application with the use of the 3D printer, of course. Holding the 1/10 scale leg bone of a dinosaur in the palm of his hand, Lacovara explained that uses in the classroom present attractive prospects, where examination of real specimens is hardly practical. The scans can also fill in the blanks of broken or incomplete bones by replicating data from a similar part. Of course, printing all of the specimens is still fairly expensive, so for now, they’re only printing fossils from which they hope to learn some new piece of information. The process is simple: Dr. Lacovara, and his students set a bone on a table, or, if size is less of a factor, on a small rotating pedestal. The scanner used in his lab is a $3,000 NextEngine scanner, which uses simple proprietary software to scan around 1 million points on a three-dimensional object in a few minutes. It is plugged into a Windows computer. The scanning produces an STL file, commonly used in CAD. The STL file is sent to another computer, and this time, it’s the one that is attached to the Dimension Elite 3D Printer which is housed in the Engineering Department, where the actual “printing” of the bone takes place. The complete process can take just a few hours. The printer uses fused deposit modeling, a 3D imaging and printing process developed in the 1980s and commercialized in the 1990s. It takes the STL file and essentially slices it into layers, automatically generating a disposable, breakaway support structure if needed. The printing material, a polymer plastic, is laid down in those corresponding layers, eventually completing the finished object. The result is a highly faithful and exact scale model of the object as originally scanned at a given scale. While the process is still somewhat expensive, it leads to the possibility — previously unthinkable — of endless duplication, and endless faithful reproductions.

Read the full article at The Verge.