Millenial brings easy 3D printing to the Philippines

“We see all this loss of opportunity, because people tell me ‘I don’t know how to do 3D design. I’m not an architect, I’m not an engineer. Where do we go from here?’ And if the average person can’t do it, how can we say we’re empowering the average Filipino?”

When the time comes to set up a business of their own, some business students go for food products, or other buy-and-sell type of items. For Erick, though, the answer of what to sell, was: “whatever the customer wants”.

This kind of thinking became the basis for Shapecloud, a company largely focused on providing people with a service to 3D print designs of their own. Chess pieces? iPhone covers? Keychains? A Vase? If it can be designed, Shapecloud can produce it, and it’s yours.

“Shapecloud is the Philippines’ first online 3D printing service platform,” he shares, “We’ve developed a platform or website where people can go on to from their homes, where they can upload a 3D design, like things from AutoCAD or SketchUp… and we send a finished 3D printed product.”

And the special thing about it, as Erick says, is that you can have something produced just for yourself. Other manufacturers would gladly take your design – like, say, a plastic model of your company’s logo – but production would need to be done in large quantities. Shapecloud allows you to get your hands on a single 3D printed piece, if that’s all you want.

His familiarity came from his own family’s background; they run a manufacturing business that specializes in producing car parts. One day, Erick’s father came across some articles on the topic of 3D printing and shared them with him. 3D printing had been around for about 30 years, but was becoming more available for commercialization just now, due to expiring patents. There was an opportunity there, and he went for it.

Naturally, he and his start-up group ran into some problems that all entrepreneurs are familiar with: starting out with zero market presence, getting the word about their service out there, figuring out the most efficient way to manage operations.

But there was one very particular problem they failed to see.

One day, Erick and Shapecloud joined a Manufacturing Expo at a major convention center. They attracted enough attention that prospective clients began talking to them, intrigued by the premise of 3D printing. But then these clients started sending them sketches and pictures, expecting their designs to be produced. The start-up had to explain to them that they needed 3D designs to 3D print.

That was the fundamental issue: the general lack of understanding of what 3D printing is. The industry awareness for the general public was severely lacking. And just as bad, once people understood that they needed to send over 3D designs for them to be 3D printed, many lost interest. Not everybody had the time to learn a new program.

“We see all this loss of opportunity, because people tell me ‘I don’t know how to do 3D design. I’m not an architect, I’m not an engineer. Where do we go from here?’ And if the average person can’t do it, how can we say we’re empowering the average Filipino?”

And that’s when Shapecloud launched another phase of their business: workshopping clients on how to use AutoCAD to create their 3D designs. They also started offering 3D design services through their in-house industrial designers and engineers. Once that “pain point”, as Erick called it, was addressed, business grew even better. They were on their way to making 3D printing more accessible to anyone and everyone.

“Our youngest client,” he says, “is a Grade 5 student. He made his own design. But … let’s say he did not know how to make his own CAD. We should be able to make a way for him to make that print. We can do the 3D design for him.”

Now sending 3D printed pieces all over the Philippines, and even abroad, Shapecloud continues to grow, leading the way in an industry still in its infancy in the Philippines.

Erick’s advice for potential entrepreneurs is simple: “When starting their businesses, everybody will come across days where it makes more sense to give up. And when everything tells you to give up, and you make the active decision not to, that’s what separates you and gives you a fighting chance.”

Liked this story? Follow Shapecloud on Facebook at: facebook.com/shapecloudph

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