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3D printer: exotica or necessity? Interview with one of the founders of the Kharkiv studio of 3D printing BeeLabs Vladislav Lubchenco

photo by Anastasia Mitrofanova

Today we want to tell about 3D printing: What is it? Who is interested in it? Is there a 3D printing in Ukraine? Which prospects does this technology open for us? About this and many other things told us Vladislav Lubchenco.

– Vladislav, please tell us how was born an idea to engage in 3D printing?

– A year ago, my classmate Sergey told that he has built 3D printer at home. He interested me. I went to him to look at it. It was the moment when this idea was born. At that time I haven’t seen 3D printers in Kharkiv. And I contemplated what if to make money on this. In February last year we gathered a team and started to work. First we formed studio of 3D printing and then the production of 3D printers.

IMG_0134– How many people work in your team?

– At this stage a team consists of 5 people. But the team is actually “floating”: someone works remotely, someone works intermittently. It all depends on the needs. We are not confined to a particular place where we should be from 9:00 to 19:00 all of us.

– Who are your customers: individual persons, institutions or business people?

– If we take the concrete work of the 3D printing studio, probably 70% of people come to us in business. They realize that they can achieve a certain result in cheaper, faster and easier way with the help of 3D printing. We have also some individual orders when people asked to print a phone cover or gear for blender or mixer. Such orders are few about 5-10%.

photo from https://vk.com
photo from https://vk.com

– Tell us, please, about pricing of 3D-models printing?

– The price we set on the basis of the amount of consumed material. An average price is 6 UAH per gram.

– Which materials can you use for printing in your studio?

– We use plastic, rubber, elastin. In the world printing from plaster, metal, wood is practicing. But it’s another printers and equipment. We are focused on rapid prototyping of products, rapid creation of some toys, useful things for the house, etc. And printing from metal is more serious equipment that costs more than $ 100 thousand and it’s more necessary for large plants.

– How does speed of the printing depend on the complexity of the object?

– It doesn’t. It depends entirely on the weight of the product. The speed of 3D printing is constant. The printhead is constantly moving with the same speed which can be regulated.

photo by Anastasia Mitrofanova
photo by Anastasia Mitrofanova

– In your opinion, what 3D-prints are the most popular at the moment? What do customers usually order?

– Generally it’s the small details: phone cover, docking station for the phone. It’s frequently ordered the gear because it’s most often broken item in domestic life. It’s very hard to find the right gear. And the easiest way is to print it. But 3D modeling also cost some money. We can’t take the gear, put it on the printer and it will print it. There is a solution – to teach people of 3D modeling. In Ukraine, it seems incomprehensible what 3D modeling is, and in America in junior school 3D modeling is a standard subject. I think we will also arrive at this one day.

IMG_0106In fact, 3D printer acts as domestic helper. The bottom line is that with the 3D-printer you can without leaving your house create anything. Today society is moving towards customization when everyone wants to have something unique concrete for himself.

– Does 3D printer use in education?

– They are interested in it but they don’t know anything about it. Our education hasn’t reached European or American standards yet. If in Europe, America, China all educational institutions have 3D-printers, perhaps, in Kharkiv we are early adaptors of this. In October this year in Lyubotin school of Kharkiv region “Dyvosvit” for gifted children in the fine arts, we have installed a 3D printer. And this is considered a pilot project for the implementation of 3D printers and 3D printing in education in the Kharkiv region.

– How do you think, is 3D-printing attractive sphere from the business point of view at the moment?

– We have started our project because it’s something new and interesting. But we faced with the problem that there is no market. To shape the market is very labor-intensive and lengthy process. Entering the 3D printing market we also faced with the fact that there is almost no competition. But each month this market is growing and developing. As a result soon will appear competition and high demand.

– Is this business in need of marketing?

– 3D printing is rather interesting, useful but none doesn’t know about it. We need public awareness and good marketing. It was one of the key factors why we decided to open a 3d-printing studio in the loft “Novoe Mesto”. This place is public, here comes a lot of interesting people who will potentially be interested in the subject of 3D printing.

collage– What prospects of development of 3D-printing in Kharkiv and Ukraine in general?

– The market will develop and grow. The crisis of 2014 influenced greatly the formation of the market. The process became slower taking into account upswing of the dollar. Now we sell 3D printers at the price $ 450. It’s inexpensive as European counterparts cost € 1,200, although they are identical to an analog one and the same. When the marketing starts to work the market will begin to grow.

– Many people believe that a little while everybody will have a 3D-printer. In your opinion, is this true?

– Of course. In America and Europe it’s already true. There 3D-printer won’t surprise anyone. Now 65-75% of people buy 3D printers to make business or for design. The market of professional 3D printers will grow when people realize why they need it. It’s like with computers. First computers appeared in the government, then in schools, institutions, and only then in the houses of ordinary consumers. It happened when computer became understandable for the people, when the developers explained its intended use. The product is designed to simplify people’s lives. When people will be explained how 3D printers simplify life, they will buy it.

IMG_0104– What are your goals for the future?

– In the near future – the opening of 3D modeling courses for beginners. Because the people who are interesting in 3D printing but don’t know how to model, will be able for a month or two to learn how to create the necessary model. It’s also the global launch of the program “3-D printer in every school” together with the department as improving the competitiveness of the regional administration. It’s our joint project which we plan to launch globally before the summer at least in Kharkiv. And the development of 3D printing in Ukraine.

Vladislav, thank you for shedding the light on the interesting topic for us and sharing your plans. We wish your startup global development and perseverance in your endeavors. We hope that you will be the first not only in Kharkiv but also in Ukraine who will make 3D printing understandable and accessible for everyone.

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