Drew Taylor and Astroprint are helping the 3D printing industry step forward to help people see the wide range the technology can offer. This time through an app called Toy Maker that lets parents 3D print toys with their kids. This is a lovely way to spend time with the the family, but Drew Taylor of AstroPrint also aims for Toy Maker to be a reference app for other 3D print designers to use. The APIs used for the app have an obvious use that AstroPrint saw to help others in the industry. Toy Maker has set the bar as a must-have for both manufacturers and consumers, and has also paved a path to the multi-platform space. With this simple app for parents, the complexities of the tech and the software and hardware are all taken away to better give enjoyment for parents printing on demand.
We are excited to bring back a guest that we’ve had on before a couple of times. It’s one of our most popular episodes we’ve ever had. We’re bringing back Drew Taylor from AstroPrint. First off, he’s been in the industry quite a while. He really knows what he’s doing there. He has such a passion for it. He also has a really unique perspective which is why we love to have him on the show. He has this viewpoint that is really of creating the easiest to use ecosystem around 3D printing possible. It’s not just the same old thing we’ve talked about in the past. It really has moved on and changed with the times. The company has a mission to make 3D printing ecosystems easier to print. There are really a lot of different ways that they’re achieving that goal now. It’s not just cloud-based 3D printing. Although that’s the backbone of it, there’s a lot more to it that’s very exciting. They’ve had a really serious year of reinvention, development, massive amounts of accomplishments happen for them. Let’s go to the interview with Drew.
Listen to the podcast here:
3D Printing Apps Gone Multi-Platform with Drew Taylor
Hi, Drew. Thanks so much for joining us again on WTFFF. It’s great to have you back on the show.
Thanks so much for having me. I think it’s been like a year. I meant to get back on here sooner.
There have been a lot of changes but first I want to recap for those that are new. Our episodes get buried because we’ve reached over 500 episodes. Some of them get buried in the archives and people can’t find them as easily. Although, your very first episode has always been one of our most popular. It’s been one of the most listened to episodes out of our whole podcast. Let’s recap what AstroPrint is about and how you got started doing that just so we have that origin story.
The origin is still the same. A lot of times, the recap of what we do changes over the course of a year. The origin for the company was that I had gotten a 3D printer to make some medical devices that I wanted to prototype and then do patents on. I was in the medical industry. I saw how frustrated a lot of people were with hardware that worked great but then the software, you basically had to be an engineer to be able to use the machines. Me and some other friends decided we wanted to solve that and basically fix the software layer that was holding the 3D printing industry back from mass adoption. We started with a website called 3DAGoGo.com which is still live. It’s not what we focus on now, which is similar to Thingiverse, but focused on curated designs where people won’t get so many failed prints. Later, we shifted to AstroPrint which is what we’re focused on now. AstroPrint is solving the issues of complexity around software in the industry and what we’ve become now is a complete software platform for the industry. We’ve got desktop software for 3D printers, mobile apps for 3D printers, touchscreen software. We even have OctoPrint plugins, developer APIs, but basically this entire software layer where all of these things were meant to work together and meant to be very easy to use so that anyone of any age with any technical skill set could actually operate 3D printers.
You’re basically a source not only for end users to switch up what they use, but you’re also for someone developing their own printer and they want to figure out what to run it with.
That’s a lot of what the next phase of our company is. We wanted to move into working with manufacturers very deeply about a year ago. To be quite honest, we ran into a technical issue. A lot of the manufacturers were selling into schools and our software was only cloud-based and these schools had issues connecting their printers to the cloud. They needed offline functionality. Now that we’ve released our desktop software and the touchscreen software, we’re at the point where we’ve got the complete solution for those folks and now we’re starting to get a lot of traction with manufacturers wanting to pre-embed AstroPrint in their machines the same way Samsung pre-embeds Android or Lenovo pre-embeds Windows in computers before they sell them.
That makes it so much smarter. There is that cloud-based problem. It’s a problem in small community groups where you have maybe kid afterschool programs and things like that that they don’t have cloud access.
Or a lot of times it could be a firewall issue where the school for various safety reasons with children, they’re not allowed to connect certain things to the cloud. Also things like high-grade engineering facilities might be the same. Strangely enough, we also had the opposite. There are a lot of schools where the kids could only use the cloud. This is something that we can help manufacturers with a lot and are helping. Because schools are one of the main purchasers of desktop 3D printers, but if they’re focused on Chromebooks and using cloud-based technologies, they can’t download and install Cura or Repetier Host or even AstroPrint Desktop software. They get really stuck and then they need a cloud solution because it’s the only way that they can actually use the 3D printer when they’re at school.
We’re teaching our kids all about 3D printing and we’ve got the machines in and we’re solving technical problems because there are a whole lot more technical problems than just how the software runs and getting it in the school. It seems so silly but they’re major barriers to maintenance and material sources. How they buy the materials is a problem at some schools. It shocks me, all these little barriers that happen along the way but the biggest barrier I see is that there isn’t a lot of content. You have developed Toy Maker, a new app that lets parents and I’m assuming teachers, print with the kids, toys and ideas. How does that work?
The Toy Maker App, it’s currently available in Google Play and the Apple App Store. The app itself is free and a bunch of models are free in there and in some we charge for. The Toy Maker App is a repository of models that is more ideal for parents to print with their kids rather than having kids print directly. They can go right in the app, find a model and start the print right from inside the app if they have a 3D printer that’s AstroPrint enabled and AstroPrint powered. It makes the process really easy. The slicing is done in the cloud with presets for that machine. The models are designed to be very easy to print. One thing that’s really important about that app is it’s not the focus of our company to sell these models. The app was really built as a reference app for developers. The app was made using the AstroPrint APIs to show software developers and designers out there how they could make their own apps that sell their own models to people in bypassing all the complexity of telling people, “Go to my website, download this model and put it in Slicer.” Instead, they can use our APIs to build a really simple model repository or they could either sell or give away models for free just using our APIs.
You’re suggesting that your Toy Maker App is a model for others and suggesting that people create their own app to do similar things? You’re just spelling it out for them?
That’s exactly it.
The app is what we often refer to as sock puppets to communicate to the market. We don’t mean that to be insulting to the market, but what you’re doing is instead of just talking about it, you did it and you’ve demonstrated it. I love it because I have it on my phone and have been checking it out. What you’re saying is for whatever reason as a company we had a toy or some files, it could be any 3D files that we want to distribute and control some of the parameters, make sure it is set to print right and all those stuff, we can use your APIs which will use your software as a part of the app to make sure that our customers, fans, whatever it may be, community who downloads the app to do this has success?
That’s exactly it. In that sense, you could focus on the design of the models that you want to put in, the design of your app. Then once someone goes to either purchase the app or get it for free, however you’re distributing it, AstroPrint can take over everything else for you so that the printing process is super, super simple for them.
This is something that I really think you have a really interesting perspective. We’ve talked about this before because we have the same passion. You have a content view, a lower complexity view. We’ve got to take away all this complexity, these silly little things that are barriers. Combining those things together with then the ability to just print anything you want, you’re empowering the whole process of it and showing them how it can be done, which is really important. That’s what you’ve got here. We find so often that it’s the content that’s holding everything back, that there’s not enough showing. There’s just enough, “Do whatever you want,” and that’s just too broad.
I think we started with a little bit too much of an attitude of, “Build it and they will come.” For us, it was so obvious what you could do with these APIs and how people were out there writing all over boards how they want something like this in the industry. In the beginning, people weren’t flocking to it. We were like, “We have to show them what this can do.” The Toy Maker App, it’s just a perfect thing to show them. It’s got five-star reviews from lots of people and it’s becoming quite popular in the industry. I think it’s accomplished that. I think in the industry in general, you’re right on point that as thought leaders in the industry, you can’t just stand on a stage and tell people what we feel is happening next because this industry can be ethereal. The ideas slip through people’s fingers unless they can see it. The moment that they see it, they’re like, “That is absolutely not just the future but the near-term future.” I feel like you’ve really got to show people. That’s part of our whole software platform going into 3D printers as they get shipped out is that once it’s on the machine, people all of a sudden realize, “Why would I ever buy a 3D printer that doesn’t work with mobile apps and remote monitoring? I would never do that again.” Until they get that machine in front of them and they see it and they use it that one time, they don’t realize what a massive benefit that is.
It’s the same thing on the design side. I’ve given multiple lectures on why it hasn’t tipped into retail and the number one reason is there are not enough content providers. There’s no investment into the design side of things because it’s just not going to happen overnight. if iTunes hadn’t had all those musicians and been able to onboard all those amazing songs we all wanted to download, there would have been no adoption of an iPod if they had to rely completely on content providers who didn’t even know who they were yet. It wouldn’t have happened. It would never have worked in the YouTube model there. It has to happen here as well that you have to have amazing models. You have to have an easy way for you to access them and guarantee that they’re going to print the best possible way that they can. Doing all of those things is the only way it’s going to happen at retail as well because Target is not going to, Wal-Mart is not going to offer stuff that they don’t know is going to be able to be made. There has to be some guarantees, there has to be testing.
All of that has to happen and no one’s investing in the time to pre-fill that on-demand inventory library, whatever you want to call it. No one’s investing in that. They’re investing on the other side, the machines that can make it. This is where we start to fall apart and we find out, “We haven’t tipped as fast as we could.” We now have to go back and what you’re doing is patching up the things that aren’t working. You’re patching it up in education here, which is super smart because right now that’s where the biggest headaches, problems, pain points are and the most demand and you keep moving. I love what you’re doing here. I think it’s really great.
It’s really exciting. I’ve been looking through all the different toys available on the app and different things you can do. You’ve got some free ones and you have some ones that people can pay for but they’re very reasonably priced things. I don’t think these are priced out of anybody’s budget. I like the fact that you’re charging for the majority of them because somebody put a lot of time in to create those and also to make sure that they’re going to print properly. When we devalue that content in the process, it’s not good. There’s no incentive to create great content then.
The only way that you’re going to get Mattels, Hasbros and Lowe’s, all of these people putting out a large amount of content that people really, really want to print is to prove that there’s a business model behind it. As you already pointed out and we’re totally, completely in sync on is if you look at iTunes, remember there was so much piracy in the music industry until iTunes came out and it was $1 a song. Then people were like, “I’m willing to just pay that instead of dealing with piracy and viruses and everything.”
As we can start to prove that model, then we can get these bigger IP holders involved and interested. For us, the pricing in the Toy Maker App, that’s not a primary revenue stream for our company. We debated internally, “Should we charge it all?” Then we figured part of the whole reference of it is to prove, “This is what it looks like when we’re charging.”
I think that’s super smart that you did that. We had a big family wedding and our nephews were here. They’re the perfect age, so they come in and they’re like, “3D printers, let’s print something.” We were like, “What an ordeal.” It was like the idea of trying to find something that they would like to print was the big holdback right there. It wasn’t like, “We can run the printer but what do we print that’s not going to take us hours to find, then it prints and it doesn’t work out and they’re all disappointed?” We hadn’t thought that through because it’s here every day, so we don’t really think about it like that. It was that thing, “We could have been the cool aunt and uncle printing stuff.” It was that thing, so it does hold you back from that. You realize, “I want to do a project with my daughter this weekend.” It’s an ordeal and you’ve taken a lot of that out of it. That’s where this reduction in complexity is making it so much better for people to be able to just get to what they’re really looking for, which is the enjoyment of being able to print on demand, trying things, experimenting, having, in this case, time with your kid. You’re having time to do a project together. When you’ve got a kid into this and you want to do it, then you’ve got a machine problem that you’re dealing with, you just took all the excitement away and now it’s like, “Dad, I’ll see you later,” and you’re stuck fixing the machine.
The one that I’ve had happen a number of times is you show them Thingiverse, “Find a model that you want to print,” and they find five or ten in a row that they’re excited about that are saved upside down and not printable at all and you’re like, “You’re excited but no, not that one. Find another one.”
My nephew is very much into chess and for his birthday I decided, “I’m going to 3D print him a chess set.” On Thingiverse, I found these models of chess sets that are the minions from Despicable Me. They had done a great job designing these very cute characters but when I printed them, the reality of printing them, I regretted this project because I was spending every evening for a couple of weeks cleaning up each little minion of all the support material because its arms were hanging down very, very thin and spindly and I broke half of the arms off and had to Krazy Glue them back on just trying to remove the support material. These things were not designed with 3D printing in FFF sense at least in mind. I was really disappointed in that. I still did it because I was committed to this, but that was a whole lot of labor and it reminded me why I don’t generally do things like that. It’s just an ordeal.
I love the idea of 3D print toys being an entry point. It’s a great idea. I think you are right, you’ve created a model here by which there can be simplicity, there’s a way for you to have a library of it. I can see Lowes having replacement parts this way or an entire library of hardware, different drawer pulls and stuff that you could print and have printed for decorative cabinets and fun stuff. Do you know how wonderful this app is as a model for Lowe’s even if you think about it? I’ve had people need certain little parts that are pretty common household things but it’s something that Lowe’s isn’t generally going to carry. To have a library here that you could then print either on your own printer or if Lowe’s were smart, have a printer you could print it and pick it up in the store if you don’t have a printer, probably a number of options you’d have there, this as a model for executing a strategy like that I think is rather brilliant.
What if Lowe’s even wanted to do something really out there, since we’re talking about minions, and do minions cabinet knobs that they’re never going to injection mold hundreds of thousands but they could cut a deal with Pixar. There’s a lot that could be done around the marketing of it and those designs wouldn’t be hard to make, then there you go.
If you think about the cost prohibitiveness of doing a licensing program and you can make this commitment and this is why they usually fall apart and they don’t make a lot of money and companies hate doing them unless they know it’s going to sell in a retail sense is because they have to pay a minimum. They have to pay this large minimum based on the volume that’s going to sell and everything. If you could structure a nice licensing deal because it’s paid on demand, it is like radio royalties of your song. It’s residual income for them. It becomes much more economical for any company to employ something like that. What I would love to do is just dive a little bit into the technical side of it for anyone who might be interested in using your APIs. How complicated is this? How much skill do you have to have in coding and other areas?
You would need to be a software engineer. It’s really for people that can already make their own applications and then they want to add 3D printing functionality to it. If you could already build your own apps, then it would be for you. We would be willing to work internally with the right project. If we’re excited about it, we could do some professional services with someone or with a company though.
Let’s say you didn’t want to do that and like us, we’re not coders, we’re designers. We’re going to be creating the content that’s going to be in the app. If we had another app developer that was willing to do the work that we were going to pay to do it, would we be allowed to license, use, whatever it is, your API, provide it to them to complete the app? You’re making this available, right?
Yeah, and it’s available now. On our website, there’s a link for Developers and you can just request a developer account, which is free. You can start doing integrations there. We actually have 45 third-party apps in development. Some of those may have fallen off, but 45 in development now and it’s just third-party developers have requested an account. There is one that’s been launched from Phanes. They have a WordPress plugin for people that want to sell 3D models through their site that will accept an STL, then determine pricing for printing depending on the parameters that the website owner puts in. Phanes added, using our APIs, the ability then for that person, once the pricing is done, the order is taken, they could use AstroPrint. They go ahead and just send it directly to their 3D printer with cloud slicing. They don’t have to download the model and import it into Cura and do all those other stuff.
They’re using it for a logistics purpose on the backend of it, which is amazing. I saw that you have a list of printers and a list of materials and things. How often are you adding new printers and new materials?
With the printers, for the most part, the list that you’re seeing is the Verify Compatibility list. We are compatible with Marlin Firmware and Sailfish Firmware. That’s about 80% of the desktop FFF printers on the market. We’re compatible with them. On our list on our webpage, we just add the ones that users have come to us and told us, “I’ve tried it on this machine, it worked.” Or if they’ve tried it and it wasn’t Marlin and it didn’t work. We’re actually compatible with significantly more that are on that list. Those are just the ones that we know about.
You might find ours is compatible or something like that is what you’re saying?
Correct. At the manufacture level, we’re working with a few manufacturers that are very sophisticated and they’re not using Marlin or Sailfish, they built everything from scratch, their own boards. We’re working with some of them doing the custom development work to work with their boards. In those situations, it’s a significant amount of engineering and they’re paying for all the engineering to become compatible.
You just had a Kickstarter that is delivering. What is the AstroBox Touch?
We did have a Kickstarter that should be delivering. We ran our second successful Kickstarter campaign this summer. Things went very well with it. It raised about $74,000. People are really happy with it. It’s the AstroBox Touch. What we found in all of our communications in the industry, to manufacturers and to end users, is that the industry is severely lacking good touchscreen software. People like cloud, they need cloud, but what manufacturers really need to compete is to get away from these old 1980s blue LED screens that they’re putting on $2,000 machines. It makes no sense. We found one of the reasons that’s happening is because the hardware guys don’t know how to do the software efficiently for the touchscreens, at least not well. We decided to solve that problem for them. We ran that Kickstarter campaign. It went off really well, clearly shows that a lot of people have interest in this. It’s important to note it’s not just a touchscreen. It’s a touchscreen that connects to our entire ecosystem. When that software is added to a machine or our AstroBox Touch is plugged into the machine, the person not only has this intuitive touchscreen, they have all the cloud functionality built in. All of a sudden, our mobile apps work with the machine, our desktop software works wirelessly with the machine, any apps that have been built with AstroPrint APIs works with the machine. Later in 2018, we’ll be releasing app store functionality where developers could actually build apps that live right on the machine in the same way that apps live right on your phone now.
All of those third-party developers you were talking about, 45 of them or the ones that continue and move forward, we’ll be able to just almost push their apps so that people will be able to find them.
These we’ll be building ourselves but in partnership with MyMiniFactory and 3DKitbash to have a MyMiniFactory app and a 3DKitbash app right on the touchscreen. You could find their models there, you could get that model whether it’s a purchase or free model and even start the print right from the touchscreen.
You’re always on the cutting edge, Drew. It’s always so great to catch up with you. You mentioned companies that have licensable content or characters like Mattel. When you said that, it triggered a memory in my mind. Honestly, I’ve been trying to do some research about it and you’re in the industry. Whatever happened to the Mattel thing maker that they talked about a couple of years ago, and it was going to come out and then it didn’t? It was originally 2016, they delayed it, then it didn’t happen in 2017. Do you have any information you can share on that?
I’ve got information, but not information I could share, unfortunately.
I wondered about that because he is developing software that runs these machines. They probably talked to him and he’s not going to confirm or deny this, but I just suspect.
We’ve got NDAs in place and we had and continue to have a number of conversations with them.
There are continuing conversations. Is there hope that this product will see the light of day or can you say that?
I have personal hope that almost every company that sells products we can conceive of is going to be doing this. Not just them, but we mentioned Lowe’s and Stanley Black & Decker and Vera Wang, a printed Vera Wang vase. I have hope that that’s where it’s going for every content creator.
We have that plugin section of hope that we want the Vera Wangs of the world, the Black & Deckers, those companies who don’t feel competent because they don’t have in-house design themselves for that type of thing. Vera Wang makes clothing. She has excellent stylists, she has excellent pattern makers, material companies and all sorts of scientists and other people in those areas, but doesn’t have someone capable of helping them with 3D printing. We want to not only bridge the gap, but we want to train the gap for them. That’s our ultimate long-term goal that we’re working baby steps towards. It’s slow-going because there’s not a lot of money in it now. Our goal is that if a Vera Wang wants to make 3D print accessory lines, then we’re going to bring one of their designers in. We’ll train them on making great products that are safe and saleable and usable and transition those that have product design skills into being those that have 3D print skills. We’ll also go the other way. Those that have 3D print skills need product design skills. We’ll train them both ways.
I think that is an absolute requirement for the industry to move to mass adoption like what you’re wanting to do there. It can’t happen until someone does that.
In the meantime, we need to be able to provide them and get them up and running while people are being trained. That is our ultimate goal, to be able to just say, “You want a 3D print line, you want to be on the cutting edge, we’ll design it for you while we train your people so that you can have it immediately and get training.” Do both at the same time. It becomes this collaborative design process, which is what we practice here all the time anyway. We love the idea of it. Taking away these barriers start to make it real for them, start to make it possible because they invest in that design side of things, but they still couldn’t get it on their website and they can’t figure out how to make it. There were still so many what if’s or how to’s that were coming to the problems that you’re knocking them away, you’re chipping away at it and we appreciate that.
I appreciate everything you are doing to move that forward. I think we’re super aligned with our vision of the industry and what it’s going to take to get it to go to the next level. We have to just keep chipping away until we get there and show more, show more, show more.
Thanks so much for joining us again, Drew. We’ve got to keep in touch a little more frequently and maybe you will be our Saturday Night Live popular guest.
I did just want to throw out a couple of milestones that we just hit just because I’m pretty excited about it. We just crossed 1 million hours of 3D printing on our platform. There have been over 1 million hours of cloud-based 3D printing that’s gone through the system and that’s about 600,000 prints. We’re pretty excited about that and I just wanted to make sure and throw it in there.
Thank you for sharing. Those are some big numbers. We’re so pleased for you. We’re so pleased you’re moving forward all the things that are happening in the industry and that your business is progressing in such a great way that is not only sustainable, which is really important, but it’s really moving the industry forward as well. You’re serving us both and I love that.
Thank you so much for what you and Tom are doing. You’re pushing the industry forward too. Without podcasts like this and building community around what is still a small industry compared to other industries, building this community is what’s allowing it to progress. Thank you so much for what the two of you do as well.
Thanks for saying that, Drew. We do appreciate that. It’s a lot to do to keep the podcast going and do so many episodes, but we really do enjoy it. It’s a labor of love.
3D Printing Apps Gone Multi-Platform – Final Thoughts
A lot of times I get notifications from companies that I’m subscribed to their email list or somehow associated with and they come up with a mobile app. When I download it, it’s just like, “Why did I download this?” It’s like informational app. It’s like, “Let’s put our video in an app.” It’s terrible. It doesn’t serve a legitimate purpose, a reason for being on your phone. Toy Maker App is truly very different. It’s very cool. I think it makes it easy to use especially for younger generations. We have a few young kids that are into 3D printing and would be into these toys. This app is free, it can be downloaded on the iPad that they use all the time anyway for other purposes. AstroPrint has become an ease of use must-have for every 3D printer manufacturer right now. I think they’ve set the bar.
I know there are printers that are not available, they don’t have profiles for because the printer companies are trying to have more of a closed ecosystem. I understand that business model. However, I think they are missing an opportunity by not integrating AstroPrint as an option on their 3D printer. I think it’s a huge mistake on their part because they don’t understand that people buy printers, consumers especially, but schools too. They buy printers with the intention in mind of printing all the time. Anything that you put into that machine had better make it easier to do that. Part of that is content. Part of that is facilitation of how it runs. Choosing that content is extremely important. They’ve really taken out all those tiny, little frustrations that surround buying a printer. It would be my choice. We get a lot of requests from parents and from administrators, teachers, other things like that saying, “Which printer should we buy?” I have to be honest with you. I’m thinking back on my list. I’m like, “I want to make sure it’s on that list first.”
The stories we told of what it’s like with our niece and nephew or what it’s like with our daughter and you get into these systems in which you’re just so frustrated by the process of getting to printing, then if you compound that with printer problems, now you’re really just done. The whole easy part is just there, the smoothness of it. This is something that we have personally found. When we run our printer more, it runs better. We have less problems with the materials aging, which we seem to have a lot of older materials when they sit on our shelf and we go back to using that color. We seem to have problems with it when we’re not running the machine as consistently. Granted, running it 24 hours a day all the time is intensive but if we ran it every week, we have a lot less maintenance issues. That’s what we’ve discovered. If a manufacturer can find a way to make it easy for someone to just like, “I’m in the midst of designing something but I’d love to run something for my daughter right now,” and it’s easy to do, now we’ve created a lower maintenance level that’s going to happen on the printers overall. I think the slicing aspect of it which is really what the cloud software handles so well for you and all the settings for the printer and all that is really where a lot of people, especially younger people can get hung up and mired in technical details and false starts and things like this that really take away from the user experience.
Whether you’re thinking about buying a printer, I encourage you to go to AstroPrint’s website and to check out their apps in the App Store. Check them out and check out the printer lists. Check out the material lists when you buy materials. Check them out and use it as a starting point because if they found it easy here and they found the manufacturers have been cooperating with them, I think you’re talking about much more sustainable companies that you’re going to be buying a printer from or you’re going to be buying materials from. People who have more resources, more care, more interest in making the ecosystem better than just furthering their business goals. That means it’s better for you as a consumer or administrators or school systems, whatever that might be, whoever is buying it. Look there first. If you’re just on the consumer side or parent’s side, be thinking about what you’re going to print with your kids, what they’re going to print, where they’re going to get those files, where they’re going to learn from. That’s really important as a starting point.
We always say that here and I just really want to emphasize that. The reason we named this show WTFFF!?, What The FFFF!?, is because you really should start with the ‘what’ and understand that first. Now, I’m saying an interim step between the ‘what’ and what you’ll buy to support that is ‘how’. That might be the AstroPrint ecosystem here. I think also that manufacturers and anybody involved as a company in the 3D printing industry from a business level really should look into this AstroPrint API for this mobile app. We have an interest in it. We have something that we’ve been considering doing in this regard. We’ve talked to Drew about that, but they’ve already gone and created some very important building blocks that’s a huge timesaver. There are integrations with apps and now even on the web and mobile that make so much sense that you could take advantage of.
They’re coming from that consumer viewpoint, which I think is so extremely important. A lot of manufacturers of materials and the printers themselves and even some of the software get lost in the technical features and not in the benefits and not in the consumer interest side of it and you forget how someone is using your printer, you may not really have a visibility when you’ve been diving in to the tech yourself for so long. You start to lose sight of it. You start to assume that they’re more capable than they are. We just had this discussion on some of our sight issues ourselves that you forget that at the end of the day, it is a user-interface. Whether it’s physically a printer or it’s the software that runs it, it’s how you plug the materials in, this is all how the user interacts with something and you have to look at it from a newbie perspective most often. If it’s not self-explanatory, if it’s not easy to use, if it’s not self-evident, then what you have is a higher opportunity for dissatisfaction. That is a scary place to be. A lot of companies in the desktop 3D printing industry all too easily get within their tech bubble and they think, “That’s not that hard to use. That user interface, it’s not the same as theirs, but it works.” It may work but if you want it to sell, you better go beyond, “It does work.” You want to make it work the best that it can be so easy to use that that doesn’t get in the way of user adoption or even sales.
We hate the traditional definition of MVP here at 3D Start Point, at Hazz Design. We hate it. Minimum Viable Product is a terrible term. It is the worst disservice to growing companies. It is the worst disservice to consumers. What we strive for is maximum valuable product. Everyone has to make decisions about what features, what they have time to develop, what they’re going to do first, second, third, but that priority needs to be on what is maximum valuable to the consumer. What is the most evidently valuable to them? What is the thing that’s going to help it sell? When you put your priorities there and you make that how you prioritize your feature list and how you prioritize what you’ve done, which is clearly evident with what AstroPrint has done over the last year, clearly evident that that’s the emphasis that they placed, when you do that, you become extremely valuable. You become the must-have, the one to chose. It makes it easier to sell the product later and it makes it easier to have less customer service issues, less dissatisfaction, less bad reviews. All of those things are not a problem when you’ve focused there. Kudos to AstroPrint and I look forward to having Drew on the show again because every time we have him on, it’s like, “Major progress in his company and his business.” It’s always something new and it’s very useful and it seems going in absolutely the right direction. That was a lot of fun.
You can find all information about AstroPrint, Drew and all of these things that we’re talking about on the website at 3DStartPoint.com and on our Facebook page @3DStartPoint. We look forward to bringing you a new episode. Thanks so much for listening. We really appreciate it. This has been Tom and Tracy on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
- first episode
- Repetier Host
- AstroPrint Desktop
- Toy Maker
- Google Play
- Apple App Store
- Phanes list of printers
- Marlin Firmware
- Sailfish Firmware
- AstroBox Touch
About Drew Taylor
Drew’s love of technology started with coding in Basic on his RadioShack TRS 80! Yep, back when the only way to save a file was on an audio tape… Of course, that was cutting edge at the time, just as 3D printing is now. Believe it or not, he thought it was fun to teach himself ASP and database management. What a weird guy, huh?
In addition, he is an avid yogi and previous cofounder of FindYogaNow.com, was a Chinese Medical practitioner and professor, covered sports medicine for pro ice hockey and pro soccer teams, loves world travel (Bali, Nepal, SE Asia, New Zealand), avidly practices Qi Gong and meditation, and loves hiking and snow boarding.
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