One of the first dedicated 3D Printer Manufacturers to establish themselves in Spain, Tumaker has found rapid success on the B2B market. Now,Jon Bengoetxea hopes to help bring 3D printing to the masses, with a new range of consumer-focused devices that allow virtually anyone to get to grips with additive manufacturing - regardless of previous experience or technical know-how.
Describe your company Tumaker in a couple of sentences
Tumaker is the '3D-Printing Connected Things' company. As one of the few 3D Printer manufacturers to be based in Spain we have targeted two distinct business areas. The first is industrial 3D printers, designed to help improve industrial processes for a variety of applications. The second is our new venture into consumer 3D printers started with Voladd, which will be launched in October.
What are the origins of Tumaker?
I took the first steps towards establishing Tumaker back in 2012. At that time I owned a Technology Consultancy company called K35 IT Managers Group. We spent a lot of time reflecting on future trends and analysing different technologies. 3D Printing was something we quickly identified as a promising area that could be relevant for the future of many businesses.
Initially we began experimenting with 3D Printing technology as part of our general Research and Development, but it quickly evolved into a Lab Start-Up - creating prototypes, testing the market and so on. By 2014 it had was clear that the project had evolved, so I founded Tumaker as an independent company. Since then we've grown very quickly, from just three employees at the start to almost thirty today. I'm proud to say that we're now a leader in the Spanish industrial 3D printing market.
What is Voladd?
Voladd is the first-of-its-kind connected 3D Printer. The product represents a piece of hardware plus a software package in the cloud. You can connect via internet at home or remotely using a smartphone, tablet or PC, choosing from a catalogue of thousands of ready-to-print objects on our cloud-based web platform. You can also design and print your own objects using your preferred design software.
Over the next few months we're hoping to launch a community-style environment where users can upload their designs for free - it'll be a totally open-source philosophy. I see the future of 3D printing as essentially "streaming" for objects. With Voladd, it's as easy to print a digital design as it is to listen to a song in Spotify or watch a film on Netflix.
What were your main goals in developing Voladd?
Our vision for Voladd was to empower people to create things wherever and whenever they want to, but without requiring specific technical skills. Music used to only be available on tapes and vinyl, but is now primarily consumed online. We feel that objects are destined to go the same way. They're very important in our lives, we're surrounded by them. But right now if we need something we need to either find somewhere to buy them or order online and await delivery. Voladd represents a different, more sustainable way to acquire various everyday objects that we need in our lives. If I want something, I can have it now.
In terms of the design, we wanted to move away from the typical box-shaped 3D printer design and create something more aesthetically pleasing that you could feel proud to have in your home. It's a printer that doesn't really look like a printer - it's more similar in design to a modern coffee machine.
What kind of consumer is Voladd aimed at?
I see 3D Printing as a very transversal technology. Think about a smartphone - is it for adults or for kids? The answer is that it's for both. That being said, we understand that as this is a relatively new technology, we need to engage in some "pedagogic" work to help people to understand how it works and all the things they can do with it.
Our core consumer at this stage is a person who has certain ideas and values that align with the product. Voladd can be a great tool for sustainability. There's no need for deliveries - which can impact your carbon footprint - or packaging - which is often a waste of materials. We want our product to stimulate people - it rewards intelligence, imagination and creativity. So at first, we expect our typical consumers to be what you might describe as 'techy' or 'millenial' - young people with values who are unafraid of embracing new ideas. But it's ultimately conceived as a domestic technology, so there's really no limit to the type of person who could benefit from using it.
Who do you see as your main competition on the 3D Printing market? How does your product stand out from your competitors?
Currently, 3D Printing is a very trendy piece of technology, but it does require certain skills to be able to use it - which is a significant barrier to entry. This is where we're making the difference. Our printer is for everybody, from people with no technical skills to experienced 3D printers. Voladd is truly a mass-market product.
Therefore, we do not have a direct competitor. This is the first initiative which contains a 3D printer and software platform in the same product, requiring no installations or additional software to get started. It is also the first sharable printer - you can go online and send an object design from San Sebastián to a printer in New York, for example.
How has your relationship with Premier Farnell influenced the project?
Premier Farnell has provided the heart of Voladd's technology - the Beaglebone Black. This is the device which allows transactions between the printer and the cloud. It features all the software that allows you to select an object from your smartphone and send it directly to print. We placed our order through Premier Farnell because they are a global distributor of the Beaglebone Black, and we have a strong relationship with them.
Have you worked with any other partners or collaborators on Voladd?
The technology itself was developed in-house at Tumaker, but we've worked with a number of different investors. One of our principle investors has been CAF - one of the most important railway companies in the world. We received design assistance from a Catalan company called Loop, who have also been involved in design work for Nespresso. All of the manufacturing, assembling and logistics is also done in Spain, primarily in the Basque Country. It's a truly European project.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Our biggest challenge has been acquiring the finance - there's nothing new there. There's also the fact that our product is a complex thing to market. It's not an app or a piece of software - it's both software and hardware. Because we started from scratch, our product requires us to inspire trust in a lot of people, and to co-ordinate a lot of different people and requirements at the same time.
Ultimately, the key to overcoming these challenges is to trust your team and ensure that everybody is in a position to do their best. I'm very happy with what we've achieved so far. There's always a degree of anxiety when you're watching a project finally come to life, but I believe that when we hit the market we can help to create a new culture of free, near-instant object creation. I'm excited to see the new opportunities that could create...
Where do you hope to be in 12 months time?
In 12 months, we'd love to see a better global understanding of what the 3D printer can do. Obviously, we'd also like to see this understanding converted into sales for Voladd! However, we understand that not everybody is going to embrace this concept from day one - it's going to require a transitional period. For those people that do understand what we're trying to do, we hope that Voladd can establish itself as the premier commercial 3D printer on the market.
Voladd will be launched first in Spain, Portugal and Germany simultaneously. A Kick-Starter for a global rollout of the product will launch in October 2017.