Find a need and fill it. It’s usually considered to be the easy recipe for a successful business venture although it might not be as easy as it sounds. Apart from some lucky coincidence, to discover people’s needs one needs to know a lot about them. So if you want to fill one of the many needs in the prototyping industry, you should know a lot about prototyping. That is where Fictiv, a professional service to help you find the best available 3D printer and material for your prototypes and projects, comes in.
What San Francisco based Fictiv does is use its team’s knowledge of AM technologies and materials, find the idle professional 3D printers close to you that would best fit your requirements, and get the prototype done and delivered. They can do this because Fictiv’s co-founders Dave and Nate Evans, and their CTO Simon Luetzelschwab, have an extensive background in product prototyping, working at companies such as Ford, and researching in the labs at Stanford, on how to decrease the hardware production cycle.
This knowledge is then combined with an online software architecture that lets customers simply upload a file, select time requirements, place the order and receive a price quote. This file is then directed towards the closest and most compatible available professional or desktop 3D printer.
“It’s about giving people access to the best tools for a specific job,” Dave Evans, one of Fictiv’s founders tells me from his office on a San Francisco morning (mid-afternoon here in Milan). “What we do is make it possible for people and small companies focused on creating new products to access top end 3D printing systems such as Stratasys’ Objet500 Connex3 or 3D Systems’ Projet 3500”.
What Fictiv wants to do is create a network of 3D printing hubs for helping more companies and start-ups getting new products to market sooner. To do that they have sought out both traditional vendors and service bureaus as well as smaller companies who own the machines or even individuals who have them in their garage.
One of their best cases is a small local boutique and design studio. “They bought a Projet 3500 – says Evans – and they use it 30% of the time. We can help them find a way to recover the six figure cost of it by printing parts for other people while at the same time we can help our customers get parts done faster and at a much cheaper price.”
One recent satisfied customers was DrumPants, an innovative hardware-software system that can transform your own pants in a drum set through a mobile App. They were recently featured on the SharkTank TV show and were extremely satisfied at how their collaboration with Fictiv allowed them to move on from desktop based PLA or ABS early prototypes to a prototype that looks just like a finished product. Other Fictiv customers include Skully bike helmets, the Whistle activity monitor, the Soundfocus intelligent sound system, the Zuli smart plug and engineering firm Cooper Perkins.
In fact demand has been so high that Fictiv is currently serving its customers on a waiting list basis as it is set to grow and further develop its ecosystem to become the one online software that will bring serve them all.