What does 3D Printing and a packaging supply company have in common?
Despite the setup, I’m not about to tell you a joke. Two years ago, almost to the day, Jon “Max” Maxwell and Felipe Mendoza sat across from one another tossing ideas and discoveries back and forth over one of their bi-weekly “tech talks,” but this day was different. As with so many of us, 3D printing was an idea they were only loosely familiar with–an abstract “sci-fi” dream –something still being cooked up in hidden vaults and secret labs. That day’s tech-talk changed everything: It was that razor’s edge moment during which the choice to act sparked a business that has continued to evolve in astounding ways.
You will likely be surprised to learn, as I was, that when that tech-talk occurred Max and Felipe were selling boxes, packaging, and shipping supplies for Proven Products. In fact, both 3D Proven Systems and Proven Products remain sister enterprises to this day. The connection isn’t as elusive as it may seem, and Max puts it very well. “Proven Products and Services can sell to anyone, because every business needs industrial packaging supplies. 3D Printing is the same.” That notion is foundational in propelling the success of 3D Proven Systems in every way. 3D Printing is potentially universal in its applications. If you keep up with the industry at all you already know this: The guy making replacement car parts in his garage and the laboratory printing rocket components are both united with a common need. In that regard, it’s guys like Max and Felipe that really can demystify the technology and affect widespread use. Simply put, they get it in ways that the industry titans do not. First off, they’re transparent and open, being the first to admit that 3D Printing is not as simple as pushing a button or using a remote. In fact, as someone in the sphere of professional fine-art, I love the way Max put it: “3D Printing is a craft. We have to perfect the craft.” We need more people approaching the technology with that mind set instead of trying to convince the world that even a Minion could do it. Instead, a lot of companies just shine a spotlight on their song and dance and make claims like, “This technology is so easy to use, that all you have to do is upload a CAD file and click print.” In light of that, it’s no wonder that there are still a lot of burns and wounds the industry needs to work doubly hard to help heal. Those industry titans of 3D technology are failing to capture the key piece: The Human Element–the narrative element. Let me explain what I mean. When I first learned that 3D printing has technically existed since the late 1980’s I thought to myself, “Wow, something is really missing here. Why isn’t this common knowledge?” When industry experts get excited about something, they forget that most of the world doesn’t speak their language. When you throw PID sensors, extruders, and multi-jet-quasi-fabrillicators at those of us who aren’t engineers jargon-masters you freak us out. It’s like watching someone running at you, full-speed, shouting in gibberish. Ever since that tech-talk, Max and Felipe haven’t just been selling equipment and service. They have been actively dedicated to sharing their knowledge so that these technologies truly become viable to the general public. Their commitment to that goal is a huge reason I’m even getting the opportunity to write this for you now.
Max: There is no existing source of knowledge for how to make this industry work. We are writing the textbook. You have to live with the technology to fully understand it. When we got started, it was like being handed a grill for the first time. Great, we have a barbeque, but no steak or cookbook.
Felipe: You can be outside looking in on the technology you have to be inside looking out and see the benefits of the technology. We live with the printers. Knowing the way each technology works gives you a better understanding of limitations.
It wasn’t long after that tech-talk that Max and Felipe secured a distributorship with 3D Systems. Now, in just a couple short years, the company reps several companies and everything form drones, to 3D scanners. There’s even an Augmented and Virtual Reality division, but we’ll get to that later… So, while some look on the story of how 3D Proven Systems got its start and see an unlikely turn of events, I see an idea that’s time has come, a trajectory that makes complete sense and an enterprise that’s really on to something big. I’ve yammered on long enough for one post though. There will be plenty more to come.