You know how Spotify works, right? You pay a subscription fee, then get earfuls of streaming music. We’ve seen the same idea applied to nearly every type of media. So, why not 3D Printing? Enter Kwambio, a new service set up to allow you to stream designer products, interact, customize and print. You can’t download the file, but the original designer makes 70% of what you pay and you get a high quality, customized print.
The company has partnered with 3D print service iMaterialise. Some of the first designers onboard are names such as Daniel Michalik, Kladia Miczan, Alissia Melka-Teichroew, Andrew Sack, Colleen and Eric, Ivan Zhurba, Hart Marlow and Angela Eberhardt.
Speaking with Kate Kolambet, Marketing Director for Kwambio, we thought, obviously, they were inspired by the issues many face with 3D printing: high material and manufacturing costs and inconsistent print quality. We were almost right. “As we worked on the problem we realized that 3D printing also offered a unique opportunity to include the customer in the creative process'” Kate explains. “We tailored our business model towards the idea of a ‘custom 3D printing shop’ where customers could personalize anything they see on our site.”
Kate further elaborated. “At the moment, 3D printing companies seem to fall into one of two categories: some companies sell 3D model files (basically ‘blueprints’ that customers print out themselves). This is great for the DIY community, but 3D printing is expensive and often produces flawed results, making it very frustrating for the customer. The other companies work like made-to-order online stores, where customers pick out a product to be printed and shipped it to them. We saw this last approach as a huge missed opportunity to involve the customer in the creative process, and built Kwambio’s customization platform to capitalize on it.”
Product Interaction for the Customer?
Absolutely. Customers pick from a range of designs by prominent and renowned designers from around the world. From there, they’re taken to Kwambio’s customization platform, where they choose materials, scale of the item, and can adjust and customize the item’s design using a set of sliders–You can see the piece change right in front of your eyes on the screen. Most of the customers get so involved that they never stop to think that, really, they’re 3D modeling, or rather, 3D modifying.
Kate explains the process further, “From there, the customer can choose the printing material, and leave printing and delivery up to us. Our goal is to guarantee a quality print for every customer. The current 3D printing file market is kind of a wild west: anyone can put their crappy design online. With Kwambio we can guarantee the quality of every design.”
The Key Innovation
Kwambio has developed algorithms, which allow customers to change the shape and pattern of a product by using adjustment sliders. Customization options have certain constraints set by the designer; however, customers can co-create their own version of the products up to these pre-set limits. The customization app is, essentially, a 3D modeling program, designed to be intuitive and instantly rewarding for the user. The designs we tested out were rather limited, but the foundation is there to adjust
Kwambio streams encrypted files directly to their partner’s 3D printers. This way, no one except the designer has access to the file. It can’t be stolen–directly, at least. Designers make money on each order places, so for them, it’s an additional revenue stream.
The Biggest Challenge
It seems like every day we hear about “breakthrough” technology in 3D printing, whether it’s a more efficient printer or a new material. Kwambio thinks that the real game-changer is in how people interact with the process. They want customers to engage with a product, rather than simply buy it. Their customization platform is a means to that end. 3D printing isn’t one technology but a stack technologies to make 3D printing easy and accessible to everyone. It’s Kwambio mission to bundle all these complicated technologies into one simple service.
Sketch courtesy of Ivan Zhurba