The more good quality 3D Print products are out there, the more we attract, and the faster the market will grow. As such, the need for trusted printers and materials are a must. Guest, Buzz Baldwin of 3D Print Life, is well-versed in the day-to-day of 3D Print Sales. 3D Print Life is a reseller of 3D printer, materials, and other supplies. In this episode, Buzz shares with us his workarounds in the company and how he is selling through a customer service friendly business model to the current adoption rate of 3D Print Technology. He also talks about the growing value of both materials and content to assist in the sales process, selling premium and good-quality materials than low-cost, ensuring downloadable designs are printable, and having anti-piracy detection. All of this in the day in the life of Buzz Baldwin. Tune into this great conversation.
Listen to the podcast here:
Day In The Life – 3D Print Sales With Buzz Baldwin Of 3D Print Life
Guest Buzz Baldwin of 3D Print Life is well-versed in the day-to-day of 3D Printer Sales. Selling business-to-business or business-to-school is well suited to a customer service friendly model of business like Buzz’s and to the current adoption rate of 3D Print Technology.
In this episode, we’re going to have an interview with Buzz Baldwin of 3D PrintLife, which is a reseller of 3D printers, materials, supplies and things.
They have some designs there too. He’s based in our old stomping grounds in Providence, Rhode Island. It was fun to talk to him because he’s right across the street from where RISD is putting in a new 3D print lab. For those of you who don’t know, RISD is Rhode Island School of Design. Buzz is over there in Rhode Island and he’s got a website going. He also has a partner out in California. They’re covering both coasts and they are doing an interesting job because he started an ink and toner sales.
This is why we wanted to have Buzz on the show. We’ve been looking for someone in 3D print sales to come on the show because we think a lot of people are out there thinking the same thing. They’re thinking, “I have a computer repair business. I have an ink and toner business. I have this business and I’d like to add 3D printers to it.” How he approached it and what he’s doing now, which is interesting because he’s heading more toward the material side. It’s an interesting study and how it goes in 3D print sales.
I’m curious to hear about the challenges they faced and how they’re going to start this new business. They see an opportunity in the market like many people see. How are some people gone and doing it, making a business and making a living at it? Why don’t we go to the interview with Buzz and we’ll chat about it after?
Buzz, thanks so much for joining us.
It’s my pleasure.
We’re interested to hear more about 3D PrintLife and how you guys got started. Maybe you could share a little bit of that and a little background on yourself for our readers.
The short version of how we got started. Years ago, I’d worked for Warner Brothers in their animation galleries and made friends with one of the guys at corporate. Long after I left the company, we still remained friends. I started my own company reselling ink and toner, which was not the most exciting thing in the world but we do what we have to do. One day, my friend Jeff sent me an article from The Economist called Print me a Stradivarius and it was all about 3D printing. I was trying to visualize how in the world does this work. I kept picturing a laser printer shooting out pieces of paper and somehow, they would unfold the 3D objects. I could not figure out for the life of me what they meant. I started researching it and we decided that this is potentially the next big thing. We wanted to see where we might be able to do something to fit in that space.
Did you see a similarity between the ink and toner? Were you thinking that it would fit?
From my end of things from the supply end, yes. I looked at the plastics as the obvious, “There’s a court somewhere where I’m familiar.” Selling hardware in the ink and toner business is not profitable. You’re almost selling it at a cost to get it out the door and into the customers’ hands. You’re making money on the back end either with the supplies or some places that do contracted service on the machines. That’s where you make your profit, but on the hardware, half the time I would tell people to go to Staples, Office Depot or wherever and buy the machine from them. You’re going to pay the same amount of money and you’re not going to pay freight like you would with me. On the supply end of things, I’d be able to come in under retail on what big box stores are doing.
Do you think the same thing is happening here in 3D printing?
Having been reselling 3D printers now for a few years when the margins are certainly better on hardware. What we found with hardware is making the initial sale is almost easy by comparison. It’s the post-sale process where the sale is made. We were trying to sell initially into the consumer market. When you’re selling to a mom and her eight-year-old kid buying a machine. I won’t say some of the brands that we’ve sold that we’ve had issues with but you’ve got to hold their hands, walk them through troubleshooting. People expect plug and play at this point. As you know, we’re not there yet. We’re in this weird space with hardware.
I liken it to the initial days of the PC market where you would go to Radio Shack and buy a kit, bring it home and put it all together. You had to know what you were doing to get things to work right. We’re in that place but at the same time, you can buy a printer right out of the box and get it up and running in a few minutes. We’re in an in-between stage. It’s a hard thing to gauge but without the service on the back end or a robust reliable machine, that end of the market is hard.
We found that selling B2B has been more successful when you’re dealing with people that are already engineers that are doing prototyping. They know going in what they’re in for and hopefully, they have a little more of an expertise in that area to help troubleshoot on their own without a handheld experience necessary for the consumer. From my end on the supply into things, I thought, “There’s an area where I might be able to work something out.” Finally, with a stroke of luck, I met through a friend, a chemist here in Massachusetts who specializes in bioplastics.
We started talking about what we did. He thought he had a way to blend a bio additive with ABS to make it degrade once it got into a landfill environment. Specifically, a landfill energy environment where you have a high level of bacteria that will consume the ABS completely. We did months of testing and trying to get the right blend rate, find an extruder, did initial test to see how it worked and it did. We were pleased with the print quality and that was the early R&D stage. We then moved into the next step of, “Let’s get a higher grade ABS and figure out the right percentage of the bio additive to blend with the ABS and go from there.”
We soft-launched Enviro at CES. We had a few colors made in this line of filament with this quality blend and this percentage of the bio additive. The response right away was overwhelming. We were bombarded by some of the other manufacturers who are interested in doing co-branded lines of filament with us. We’re still in in in the process of getting some of those solidified. We wanted to develop our own line as well.
You have an existing line of standard ABS and standard PLA filaments but this is now something new with environmental version.
The standard ABS and PLA that I have in stock now are essentially what’s leftover from my last Chinese import. I’m hoping at this point to liquidate that. I’m debating keeping it in stock.
We saw a few colors that were out of stock.
It was the RISD store that bought the bulk of my remaining PLA. They’ve got a 3D store now that I’ll be supplying the 3D Print Lab. We’re happy to be stocking that. Once that stocks out, we’re going to create our own PLA line to fill the gap.
We should probably mention that because people do know that Tom and I are both RISD grads and you were across the street, I understand.
I’m in Providence, Rhode Island. My office space is in a warehouse. I love the space. There’s no air conditioning, but it’s okay. The ceilings are high, it’s fine. It’s such a great community here. There are a lot of people from RISD that come through this artist space that I rent an office space in. I’ve made a lot of contacts and that’s how I ended up meeting Shane from the 3D Print Lab at RISD. I first told him about our Enviro line that we were creating and he was excited about it but they print mainly with PLA there.
That’s a question we have about the ABS. We don’t use ABS here because our printer is right here in our home office, which is exposed to our daughter’s bedrooms. We don’t want to have the smell of ABS. Has it improved with the biochemical?
In terms of the toxicity, adding the additive will at least make it environmentally friendly, but in every other respect, it is still ABS in every way. You still have those fumes that are generated. We are experimenting in our first production run with a scent that will mask the odor of the ABS when you’re printing. It’s a baby powder scent that we hope will at least mask that acrid ABS smell.
It’s going to smell like a Cabbage Patch Kid.
I wish I could make it smell a Star Wars figure when you first open it up the package because that’s my favorite.
We have girls, so it’s a Cabbage Patch Kid here.
Hopefully, at least we could mask the smell. In terms of the toxicity, I don’t know what the level of toxicity is with ABS but I’m with you. Personally, I prefer printing with PLA at home because I’ve got two young girls and I don’t want them to have to deal with a smell.
It’s a choice. A lot of businesses use the ABS because its characteristics are perfect for their product and we totally support that. It’s not our thing here.
I’m the same way. Let the consumer decide what they want to buy. I want to at least bring them the option of having an environmentally friendly version of ABS.
Even if it doesn’t change any of the indoor air quality issues of ABS, the environmental benefit of the landfill and knowing that in 50 years, it won’t be there and maybe the gases can be drawn off for energy.
For anyone who’s 3D printed for a while knows how much scrap you generate. It’s not that you use a lot of plastic in each print, but you make a lot of prints that are junk after a while, so you need to recycle them.
Especially when it sometimes takes five attempts to even get a print right.
That’s generous for our statistics here.
It depends on how complex the print you’re trying to make. You mentioned plug and play. Plug and play for getting a printer to start printing is one thing. The expectation that you’re going to turn on that printer and the first time you put a file in there, you’re going to execute what you expect is unrealistic. There’s definitely a user learning curve.
The design is not plug and play yet.
Not even close.
Buzz, on your website, you have these 3D printable designs. At least what we see, there is a small set of designs. It’s not necessarily the biggest library, but the quality of what is in there seems to be quite nice.
We have tried our best to vet the designs that are on our site. The first designs we got were from RISD designers. I posted on the Career Center Site about a job that said, “I’m looking for some 3D designs for a 3D printing site.” I got a few responses and some of these guys still do design work for us. We have a limited number of designs on our site partly because we know they work and we’ve got a bunch of other designs in the works that we’re going to bring on at some point.
Part of our limitations there has to do with the website. We’re going to do some redesign work there. At some point, we’ll add new designs. We’ve got some packs that we’re working on that are designed for education where you might have 50, 100, or 150 designs that are geared towards the education market. You have geography, science, dinosaurs, artifacts and things like that. Even lower-level grade school stuff like numbers and letters and that thing.
Were those RISD people students that were maybe trying to make some money on the side or something?
Some had graduated. We had one designer that was working for Tiffany at the time designing jewelry and did some work for us on the side after she left Tiffany. Another guy has since graduated. He’s out in San Francisco now, which I envy.
They’re grad students. That’s nice.
Did they express any concerns to you about whether they were going to ever make any money on these files if they’re selling for $0.99 apiece?
We paid them upfront for the design.
You bought the designs.
We did pay them upfront. I would love to set up a system where we could have them design something for us and we pay them for it or they decide on their own, “I’d rather maybe get the royalties on downloads,” but we’re in a place where somebody could download it once and upload it online and copy it for the whole world to see. They’d lose all the revenue from that in the future. We decided to pay them upfront and if we sold a ton of them, we’d give them a little kickback down the line.
We’ve been citing the statistic out. It’s less than 2% of all designs that we found on most of the libraries. Only about 2% are paid designs, to begin with. There are dollar amounts on them and few of those sell.
We have been fortunate to have some of these downloaded. The education design packs have been a benefit for us certainly. The idea and the fact that they’re vetted in principle, we test them. A designer submits a design. We spool it up on different machines, different software and print it. If there are errors, we send it back, “It’s not working here.” We’re not experts in this area. We don’t know G-code and slicing, so we send it back and say, “Can you tweak this a little bit?” They’ll come back. That’s not something that you get on some of the other sites where you can download stuff for free.
That’s so true. It’s hit or miss. I pulled together a gift list every so often like for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or that thing. My requirement is that you have to be able to have seen a physical image of it so that that it’s printed, been printed and can be printed. It’s almost impossible to find good designs that way.
You’re struggling for Father’s Day. On Mother’s Day, she found a good assortment.
We should have some Father’s Day Awards on our site.
We should have something for Father’s Day but so far, it’s pretty bad.
If they’re not up there now, we do have a Father’s Day trophy.
I’ll find it. The reason that I’ve discovered is there are too large portions of the people posting up designs that are men. They’re probably not making their gift. That is the issue right now, so there are a lot of gifts for women that I have found because their wives are probably sick of them spending all the time printing and they better print a nice gift.
That is a good point. I hadn’t thought of that.
There’s stuff for kids too. Your kids are probably begging you. I know that ours do
It’s good to know that some of those designers have gotten out of their mom’s basement and have a relationship with somebody.
That’s what we think the issue is. Not enough women have embraced 3D printing.
Hopefully, that will change with some of the fashion items that you can print. As machines improve and you’re able to print and different materials like metal bronze, gold or silver.
We’re seeing a lot of growth in art and jewelry. Those are the two areas we’re seeing the largest growth of women in 3D printers, and in apparel as well.
We even have designed and continue to design some fashion accessories using 3D printing. I do think that’s a good growth area. What’s been holding back designers like us from jumping into a site and adopting one that could distribute our downloadable designs is the concern of our designs being able to be downloaded and distributed without our permission. I know there are lots of people working on solutions to that but we understand that you guys have a patent related to that.
Two different patents. Our first foray into the space was IP. That was the first thing we did before we even formed the LLC. We developed two patents. One is to deal with and secure the transfer of 3D print media. You call it the iTunes version. You download a file from the site and it goes through some encryption process. It gets sent directly to the printer, it prints and the file essentially vacates and disappears. You’re left with a print, but the file isn’t there to be copied and distributed around the world. The other patent deals with the back end of that where let’s say someone break an encryption or someone puts up a put up a file online that is licensed.
If you go on Thingiverse, you can find Mickey Mouse and every Star Wars item you can imagine, which is great, but at some point, Disney, etc. are going to put the kibosh on that. The other patent that we have deals with anti-piracy. It’s the detection of 3D print media out there in the online world. It’s a method for detection. We go out and search for the item. We find it and issue a cease and desist. It’s a service we can provide to licensers to help protect their intellectual property.
It sounds fascinating and also complex. If that can work, that would be useful.
It is useful but at the same time, I also think about the backlash that’s happened. It’s like what happened with Katy Perry. She got a lot of backlash from the 3D print community and that hurts. If you’re a brand, by all means, you should be searching out and finding out who’s raving about your brand by being a fan and creating 3D printing, but you should go out there and encourage it. You should use your tool, find them then go out and say, “Let’s license this and let’s work legally on this.”
There’s no reason not to. The whole idea behind IP is it is intellectual property. It should be up to the creator. I come from a music background. I went to Berklee College of Music, believe it or not. Napster and the whole pirating of music thing. I get it. The music industry is littered with artists that have created a song or lyric and they throughout history have been completely bulldozed by the label industry and have died penniless when a label has made maybe millions off of a song that they wrote. If I’m a designer and I want to have that security to know, “If I want this to be a secure file and create a revenue stream based on my art, I should have that option. If I want to put it up there for free, great.” The first example of that was the Penrose triangle. There’s a triangle that’s like one of those Escher drawings where the stairs go up and up but they loop around. This guy created a 3D print file that mimics that. He was going to sell it, but then somebody copied it and put it up on Thingiverse and there it was so much for that.
It’s a tough thing and you’re right. There are a lot of parallels to the music industry. There’s a lot that’s going to change in this. 3D printing is bringing about some issues that didn’t exist before and similarly happened to the music industry when the radio was invented. We’ll have to see how that plays out.
I agree, it should be completely up to the artist. The 3D print community as a whole, in order to grow and the market to grow, we have to encourage design. There aren’t good designs out there. There aren’t these packages for education that you were talking about, and there aren’t great designs to be downloading, then the printers are not plug and play. Even if the printers get to that stage in which they’re easy to print. If there’s nothing to print and you’re not capable of creating. It takes us 200 hours to create a design. If we wanted to keep our printer running all the time, we couldn’t possibly do it. It’s not possible.
I’m with you. I’m incapable of creating a design on my own. I might be able to make a sphere if I could click and drag and there you go, “I can print a circle.” It’s way out of my comfort zone and I don’t plan on learning how to do it. I’d rather be able to go out and get it. Before we got into this, we looked at adoption rates of different technologies and you go back to the radio, the television, the VCR, the automobile, and the air conditioner. All of these things open up at a high price point, low reliability and over time, the price goes down, adoption goes up.
The VCR is a great example because even though we’re talking about a video, it does equate to 3D printing. When the VCR first came out, they were so expensive that people rented them. I remember my parents renting a VCR because they were so expensive to buy when they first came out. You have the ability to tape shows on TV and watch them. Until you get something like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or whatever it is in your local video store, where you can go and rent movies that have been out in the theater that you’d maybe you never got to see. It’s the content that drives that adoption. The same thing needs to happen eventually in 3D printing.
I feel that’s the next step where you have a full catalog of licensed material that people will want to download and print, that’s a quality print. That will give them a reason to buy the printer. If I can print anything like maybe a special part to the dishwasher, I bought and it didn’t come in the box when they delivered it. Rather than wait two weeks, I can print the thing and install it and get it to work, or it’s a toy for your kid or whatever it is. That’s the reason to get into it.
We appreciate the fact that you went out to hire designers to come in because that’s part of a problem right now. It’s this assumption that designers are going to flock to it and sign stuff up on you when there’s no market for your designs and it takes you so long to build it. You need a market for it to take your time and out of what’s paying your bills. That shows a lot of great respect for the design process and we appreciate that because that’s where the design libraries are hurting 3D printing. If you’ve got 700,000 designs, and less than 2% of them are any good, that hurts the whole market.
It creates a real disillusionment. I wonder how many printers are out there sitting in someone’s garage, their basement workshop or whatever. They bought a printer and they were excited about everything they were going to be able to print. They ran into one failed print after another because the files that are out there are not quality. They weren’t capable of designing something on their own. Now it’s sitting there collecting dust.
We did a tweet about an article that came out about that. It was about how even though there are a few hundred thousand printers that have been sold over time, we’re approaching 500,000 total lifetime desktop 3D printers. They estimated that only 20,000 are on active use. That’s someone who prints every week, an active printer. They come to that number where they estimated it was double that like 40,000, but a lot of those users have more than one printer, so they half it. It’s like what we do. We have two printers here and we’re active users, so we would count in one of those 20,000. Twenty thousand active printers, that’s frightening in terms of your audience for being a designer and downloading. If I’ve only got 20,000 potential customers out there and I can maybe get the attention of 2% of those, that’s not enough business.
That less than 5% of the total machine sold at this point. It’s 4%-ish. I don’t know if my math is right. That’s certainly discouraging and disheartening but it’s a part of it.
It’s growing though. They’re not pointing that out. They’re only saying, “The market isn’t exactly where you all think it is. Let’s stop overstating this.” It’s a correction.
The fault is in the fact that a lot of the machines that are out there were built by engineers who maybe they bought a branded 3D printer and it didn’t work the way they want it to, so they went out and re-engineered it and created their own. I love engineering and engineers, but there’s a tendency to overdo it sometimes and or you cheap out on some of the components. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. I think back to the Apollo Space Program. If 99.9% of the parts and components of the Saturn V rocket worked perfectly, it’s still left over a million components that could fail.
That’s scary. At least 3D printing isn’t life or death.
I’m glad that wasn’t my project. I’m glad that we don’t build the hardware. I’m thankful for the hardware manufacturers out there. It’s going to take time.
There are different aspects to the market in the industry. There are machines and content and some other things that that are maturing. As usability gets easier as things do become more plug and play for more regular consumers, it will be increased tremendously. That’s what has to happen.
There’s a sweet spot between the content, the materials and the machinery.
It’s the trifecta that is absolutely it.
If you don’t get one of those right, it’s not taking off at the speed at which you expect it to as a manufacturer. If you’re the printer and your contents are not good, because the content out there is not good enough in general. If you’re depending on that, you’re going to be sorry. Your sales numbers are going to be lower than you expect. If you’re trying to control it, if you don’t get that right, it’s as big a problem as having a bad printer. They’re equal.
I do not envy printer manufacturers at all, especially the smaller startups. We’re a startup. We paid for those designs but I wish I could have paid a little more for them, to be honest with you. We’re all working on a budget but someday we’ll be able to do that.
That’s why your partnerships are so important. You talked about partnering with a chemist and the filament manufacturers. That is so important because that’s the only way to make sure that they concentrate on what they do best. You can’t build it all in-house, not with the lean budgets everyone has in the business right now.
This whole project and the whole process of creating this environmentally friendly ABS has been a struggle. It’s been a few years now that I’ve been working on it but it’s been incredibly rewarding and I’ve learned a lot. We’ve been able to achieve some things that are on the one hand market separators but more importantly, bring an extra option to the consumer. When we first developed the idea for the filament, I said, “Great, that’s fantastic. What about the packaging? Why in the world am I going to create this ABS environmentally friendly filament and put it on a plastic spool that’s going to cause the same problem we’re trying to solve?” I became draconian and I admit a little forceful with some of the vendors that we found and created a cardboard spool which is out there.
Is it the cork cardboard as well?
Yes. There’s a metal endcap that secures both flanges to the tube but it’s made out of tin. It’s recyclable. It’s light and more expensive by far. It’s probably 5 or 6 times more expensive than the standard plastic spool. If I can’t bring an environmentally friendly package along with the environmentally friendly filament, I’m not doing anybody any good at all. We’ve got recycled cardboard, flange, tube, and the tin metal end cap securing them all together. It’s been a blessing because we’re doing the spool in a different material. I’ve been able to completely customize the dimensions of the spool to make it a more universal fit for most of the printers that are out there.
Let’s talk about color. This is my favorite subject to talk about. It’s about filament color. It’s our biggest pet peeve in this industry. We always go, “Where the FFF is the color?” That’s the flip side of what our WTFFF?! stands for.
We’re launching initially with thirteen colors.
The thing about thirteen colors is everybody’s got to start somewhere and that’s fine. If you’re a designer and especially if you’re doing business to business work. I’ve got a client who needs red that matches Pantone X. If I don’t have something even in the neighborhood of that, I’m out of luck with FFF printing. Color is seriously lacking and there’s not enough of it. I understand there are a lot of inventory issues and a lot of dollars get tied up in it.
It’s tough, I’ll tell you. Having gone through it and color matching, our first group of colors was taken from our logo. We use the florets in the PrintLife tree. We match the Pantone for that and we branched out some additional colors from there. I will say the pink I have, I don’t normally print in pink and now with Enviro, I’m pretty much exclusively printing in pink. I love it. I don’t know why it works out. It’s my favorite one of the bunch. It’s not easy. It’s expensive to match colors.
That’s what we started to say. We said, “Let’s do some custom colors.” You’re talking about by the time you use up the amount of material, the pellets that you’re required to buy in the custom plastic, you’re at minimum 300 rolls. That’s a lot.
The colorants that we have, you have a minimum requirement of 50 pounds if you’re matching a custom color. We did it with a few of the colors that we had and it went great. I’ve got to do it with some of the PLA lines as well when we launched that. It’s expensive, but we hope to go through it all. If you’re doing it for one customer, that’s tough. You better get a commitment to say, “I’m going to match this color for you. You’ve got to come through for me and order enough material.”
Your customer better be Coca-Cola.
It’s 50 pounds. You’re talking about 2%, 3%, 4% mixture at most with the filament to get the color right.
That’s a lot of filament. Buzz, thanks so much for spending time with us. I have learned an awful lot of great things about 3D PrintLife and these new products that you come out with.
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it and thanks to all your readers for checking us out.
I’m glad we talked to Buzz. Although I don’t use ABS filament in our work. We don’t use it here. I’m excited about this new and Enviro material.
We were talking about how we’re not sure why we need zero waste, but that recyclability and in this case, biodegradability is of great service for what happens in 3D printing. We were talking about it that we print so many iterations, tests and we do these kinds of things that you need to be able to toss it in the landfill and let it biodegrade or be able to recycle it into something. That’s not so easy. It’s cumbersome.
Your average 3D printer user is not going to recycle that plastic. Your local municipalities won’t take it because it doesn’t have a recycling number on it.
If you’re a company big, corporation or something, you could figure out a way to recycle it and do something with it there. It’s not feasible for your small business and your home user.
At least with what they’re doing when it goes to landfill, it will decompose, give off gases and certainly they draw those gases off in certain landfills for energy, so that’s a positive thing.
Buzz’s thirteen colors would not necessarily be my thirteen color choices but he’s doing thirteen colors right off the bat. That is a big deal. I guarantee you a lot of people who I’ve talked to who started it, most of them will do 5 or 6 colors at the most.
They’ll say, “I’m going to do white and black and what else am I going to do?”
At least he’s taken a dive into it with thirteen colors. That’s great. I applaud that.
I appreciate what he’s doing with the new spool design as well. He’s thinking, “We’re using biodegradable ABS. I’m not going to use non-biodegradable ABS for a spool.”
That’s a good point because we advise this to our clients all the time. You don’t want to go halfway into something. You’re going to say, “I’m making an environmentally friendly product.” You’re going to stick it on the most environmentally friendly spool you’ve ever imagined. You don’t want to do that. That happens so often with our clients. They don’t think the whole big picture of the packaging, marketing and how they can do this. In the end, they muddy their message. If you are going in and launch a product go all the way.
Even at the consumer level, you don’t throw the whole spool in a recycle bin and expect your waste management company to take it apart. You can take it apart. You’ve got chipboard, cardboard of some kind and you got a little tin metal. That’s it.
It’ll be recycled in no time. We have a bunch of filaments spools flying around here that I don’t know what we’re going to do with them. If anybody has a fun idea, please tweet us at @HazzDesign. I’d love to see whatever you guys have come up with what to do with these spools. Maybe we’ll make an end table.
We are collecting them. I haven’t tried to recycle them. I certainly haven’t thrown that yet.
I’m afraid that they’ll throw them away if we send them to their cycle. We almost have to bring them somewhere where we’re sure they’ll get recycled. That being said, let’s do a little quick recap on a couple of other things Buzz said besides the filament. If you’re going to dive into a business and transition from ink and toner into a business like that. We get a lot of that because we have a lot of messages from people who are wanting to know about tools, materials and things that they could also carry as they start their 3D print shop. We also have one of the finalists who wants to start a store like that. We’ve been thinking a lot about it. What Buzz said that’s interesting is, he dove in with his partner. They went for it. That’s what it takes right now because the day-to-day business is so distracting. We have our friend Craig at Coho Computers up in Seattle, in Issaquah. When he went full in from having a computer repair and sales business, it was this little business and it was plugging away.
He started in 3D printing.
He decided to dive full in and he’s found that it’s been all encompassing. It takes over all your business and your time. You’re not making money on it in the beginning, so you’re torn between servicing the business you had, which you know isn’t successful.
It’s not as successful as you want it to be.
It’s not growing or you would have stayed in it. To go into the new business, you’ve got to think about that and plan that in. If you don’t give it the attention, it needs for this new venture and you don’t give your 3D print the time it deserves to learn it properly and make sure you understand what you’re selling, then you’re not going to succeed. It’s going to take you three times as long as you thought and planned.
The lesson that you can learn from Buzz’s experience and what we learned from him is he and his partner went into this and looked at the entire picture. They’ve looked at it more holistically than others we’ve talked to because they’re not only looking at it as selling machines, materials and supplies. They’re developing their materials and supplies, but they also went in and paid designers to create new original downloadable file content that is not anywhere else.
Buzz admitted he didn’t have enough budget for it. He needs more but the reality is it’s those designs that give customer satisfaction level that you don’t realize. If you send them out there and say, “Go to Thingiverse.” They’re getting frustrated.
You’re throwing them in the deep end of the pool and they don’t know how to swim.
If you can help baby step them along with some fun designs that are maybe market directed, because you should know your customer base. Who have been your customers already? If your customers are all real estate agents, what products do they want?
What kind of products can you develop that need to be customizable to help them promote their real estate business? There’s a lot you could.
You could do it differently, not like what Buzz did with paying for it, which is great if you want to have original. If you don’t care about the original, maybe you want to curate a collection. What you could do is you could go out there to Shapeways or Pinshape. If you could go out there to all these online and solicit those designers to allow you to put their designs on your website on commission.
The fact that they realized that in 3D PrintLife that in order for their customers to be happy, satisfied and successful with 3D printing, they need to have things to print. It’s not just try to teach them all how to do CAD overnight. That’s a tall task. I admire him for looking at the whole picture and making a serious effort to solve that part of the problem.
The message overall is there is a lot of business to be had in 3D printer sales because it requires sales support. It requires a body and if you’re that body who’s been good at selling things, whether it’s computers, ink and toner or whatever it is, you should definitely think about entering this business, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. It’s going to take some time and don’t forget about the ancillary things like materials, designs and even tools.
There are a lot of accessories that nobody’s touching yet.
Those things can be much higher margin for you and help get people into the store because you’re offering those things into your website if you’re only online. They can help you get people in there to be looking at it and thinking about what unique thing you can offer like the Enviro ABS.
That’s the thing you need. Maybe it doesn’t even need to be as big of a task as creating a new filament. If you’re going to get into this business, you have to have a plan, you have to think about how are you going to make yourself stand out amongst your competitors.
You need a little flagship thing that differentiates you from everybody else. I hope you enjoyed, Buzz’s interview, his advice and lessons learned.
I did. I know that anyway.
You can find us anywhere. If you have someone you think we should interview, we’re looking for some more interviews. Please suggest it. Go to our website HazzDesign.com. Tweet us, Instagram us or whatever. We were everywhere at @HazzDesign.
We have something coming up that I want to let our readers know about. We have some reviews of 3D printers coming up that we’re going to be doing. We’re going to be writing a blog about those things, but we’ll also be having some interviews as a part of the reviewing of some of these new 3D printers. If you’ve got a 3D printer, an accessory, a software, a filament or a material and you’d like to have us review it and test it out, we will give it a full effort and some of our attention. We love to interview you on our show and talk about our experience with it. Thanks for reading.
Talk to you next time.
- 3D PrintLife
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