Tightening the 3DP Supply Network with SupplyBetter
As 3D printing makes itself comfortable in the social structure, it’ll be necessary to quickly navigate the rising numbers of 3D printing services to find the best supplier to manufacture a given project. SupplyBetter has billed itself as the solution to this problem.
Founded by Yale University buddies, Matthew DuPont and Robert Martinez, the start-up grew from the pair’s own difficulties with the production process. Matt had trouble procuring custom parts in his previous work with a trucking company: since the company sourced hundreds of thousands of parts, many didn’t get individual buyer attention, which led to losing out on price. Rob had issues at the other end of the spectrum. In working with robotics, he often had difficulty finding a manufacturer to help move a prototype to mass production. They both decided that there had to be a way to streamline the process.
A sort of OKCupid of 3D printing service providers, SupplyBetter acts as a middleman between the plethora of printing services out there and the buyers looking to get things printed. On one end of things, an individual or business can request a price quote for a job they need manufactured. They simply provide SupplyBetter with the specifics (quantity, dimensions, material, in-hands date) and upload a CAD file or drawing. Then, SupplyBetter finds the best supplier for the task. Say you need thirty 12 inch busts of R. Buckminster Fuller made from UV cured resin in two days. SupplyBetter will list the job to their database of over 200 suppliers. The suppliers best suited to the task pay a small fee, (currently set at 1%) to bid on the project, making it completely free for buyers to request a quote. This also ensures that projects with very specific needs are connected with qualified suppliers that might not be found otherwise, such as, small, independent manufacturers.
In a conversation with Matt, I urged him to relate an anecdote about a particularly unique project that the company helped bring to fruition through the networking of buyers and suppliers. Unfortunately, it’s too early in the game for Matt to divulge any of their stories to the public. What he could tell me was that they’ve perfected the SupplyBetter process as it relates to robotics companies and tech start-ups, thanks to Rob’s experience in the industry. But that doesn’t mean that they’re limited to such projects by any means.
They’re goal, with SupplyBetter, is to make manufacturing easier at every stage. Though they are currently focused on perfecting their system as it relates to 3D printing, they will move on to filling other gaps in the supply chain. This means that, if you need something injection molded, too, you can contact them and they’ll direct you to the right place. Or, in the case that you have an idea and maybe some drawings but no 3D model to prototype, they will connect you to a designer in their network, as well. And, when you go to mass production, they’ll be there for your next step, making the production process as efficient as possible.
The company’s product actually isn’t too different from the work Matt did in his last job, Product Manager at OKCupid, proving that finding a good 3D printing service isn’t unlike finding the perfect mate. If SupplyBetter is anything like OKC, I think they’ll make the world a better place. If it wasn’t for OKC, I wouldn’t have met the woman I’m going to marry in a few short months. Maybe, in addition making my dreams of love come true, Matt will also help my additive manufacturing dreams come true, too. A man can dream, can’t he?
 Based on my own experience submitting a quote request for a UV cured Bucky head, they’re quick with their responses. I received an email with clarifying questions in a matter of hours. I didn’t upload a CAD file, so Rob offered to help find me a designer if need be.
 For the hell of it, I asked Matt if he’d ever rigged OKCupid while there. He assured me that the company frowned upon that sort of thing, and so did he.