Huiyang Yu (left), Julio Tiusanen, Cheng Hu and Jonas Eklöf want to make printers that are both easy to use and easy on the eye.
Summer of Startups: Changing the world
One wanted to create a user-friendly 3D printer, the other had an interest in prototypes and the third, well, he discovered 3D printing through his passion for reading. Julio Tiusanen, Jonas Eklöf and Cheng Hu all share a burning enthusiasm for 3D printing. The trio met at the Aaltoes Teamup event in 2016 and decided to join forces. What came next was their own company, Platonics.
“3D printing is fascinating because you can use it for anything from cars to space travel,” Platonics’ technical expert Hu says.
Platonics has decided to focus on architects and designers as their target audience.
“It can take these professionals several days to create a scale model, but with a 3D printer the process is much faster,” explains Tiusanen, who is responsible for the company’s business strategy, marketing and finance.
Tiusanen, Eklöf and Hu are the first to admit that there are still obstacles to 3D printing.
“You need training to operate one of these printers, which makes them more cumbersome to use. You also often need someone else to demonstrate how they work and they are not completely straightforward. Many of the existing 3D printers have up to 50 settings you need to get right before you can print and setting them up takes several hours of study.”
“This could be a vital tool for small architectural and design practices, but so far few have adopted them because of the skills that are required. People who are busy running their own businesses just don’t have the time to learn how a complicated piece of equipment works.”
This is exactly where Platonics comes in.
“We want to make printers that are both easy to use and easy on the eye.”
Platonics 3D printer is fitted with automated hardware and doesn’t need to be re-calibrated and cleaned as often as other models. The printer’s software is set up to recognise the user’s settings automatically.
”The printer is set up with an onboard computer. You don’t even need to download any software and drivers, as everything is already set up. You still need to be able to draw the model yourself but once that’s done you can go ahead and print without having to worry about adjusting all the settings,” Hu explains.
In fact, 3D printers have been around for more than 30 years but it is only in recent years that they have become more accessible to consumers.
“There is big variation in prices, and a good printer will set you back around 2000–4000 euros,” Hu says.
Although Platonics has explicitly set out to create a 3D printer that is more accessible and user-friendly than other models currently available on the market, they are not targeting ordinary consumers.
“Around three years ago, there was massive hype around 3D printing and people were starting to think that they would soon be in every home. However, I think everyone now agrees that there is little point in investing in an expensive piece of equipment that prints household goods,” Tiusanen concedes.
“3D printers are perfect for hobbyists with an interest in creating something new. They are ideally suited to public places, like libraries. At a library, everyone can have a go but they don’t need to buy the equipment themselves,” Hu adds.
In addition to amateur enthusiasts, 3D printing could prove useful for education and industry settings.
“Garages and car repair shops can use them to print parts, for example. You then wouldn’t need to order parts from the other side of the world, and that saves time for everyone. At space stations when something breaks down, repairs are now easier as the parts the astronauts need can be sent to them electronically and then printed on site, instead of sending a space shuttle that costs more than $1 billion US dollars per launch. Again, it’s about saving both time and money; 3D printing really has the potential to change the world.”
Keen to learn
The Platonics tech team was chosen from among a hundred applicants to take part in the Summer of Startups programme, where coaches and mentors will act as their sparring partners to help develop their business idea further.
“At the Summer of Startups we want to learn about scalability and adding value to our business. We hope to meet with mentors, coaches, other startups, and above all do some networking,” Tiusanen explains.
“Before the programme started, we set ourselves an objective and that was to learn as much as possible,” Eklöf adds. At Platonics, he looks after research and development, and customer discovery.
He also has previous Summer of Startups experience.
“I was here last year as part of the Stone EDGE team, where we set out to develop a device that would monitor whether a plant needs watering. We are taking a hiatus with that one but it’s brilliant to be back on board. I am definitely interested in business!”
The threesome have already received plenty of encouraging feedback from all the right quarters and may even have secured new partners for collaboration.
“We have been able to strengthen our team with the addition of an industrial designer, who is responsible for the product aesthetics. At the moment, 3D printers look a bit rough and overly techy. We are after something a bit sleeker. If you want to sell to architects and designers, your product needs to offer good functionality but also look good.”
Platonics wants to complete the design process by the end of this year. There is a crowdfunding round coming up. The plan is to have the finished product available for customers by August 2017.
“This programme only runs for a couple of months and that’s just not enough time to cover everything. The software side of things is easier but the hardware will take longer. The design process is quite slow,” Hu says.
We look forward to the Summer of Startups demo day and the chance to catch a glimpse of what Platonics’ 3D printer might finally look like.
Read more: platonics.fi