After weeks of anticipation, the winners of the EIT Digital Challenge 2017 will gradually be announced. Florian Reichle won the Digital Industry category with his 3D printing software company Trinckle. With its cloud platform paramate, trinckle simplifies the design process for customized products within any industry. Based on a powerful set of algorithms, paramate enables endless possibilities for product configuration. In a nutshell, trinckle seemingly is the next step for the 3D printing industry. We interviewed Florian Reichle, Co-founder of trinckle, on how the company came to be, how it is progressing and his goals for the future.
Introduce to 3D-printing
Reichle: “Basically, starting up with trinckle was a very long process. In the very early stages, I co-developed the solution with my co-founders. We met in 2012 at one of many startup events in Berlin, when I had some spare time during my Ph.D. studies. I worked at the Business School ESCP Europe at the time, while both of my co-founders were postdocs in physics. They were also the first to introduce me to the concept of 3D-printing. Shortly after, we realized that, if it were to be possible, it would change everything. Also, no one was really aware of what it was at the time.”
Everyone a 3D printer at home
“We imagined how nice it would be if everyone could have a 3D-printer at home. A lot of the inspiration came from the replicator in Star Trek, which could replicate anything from home. But then we wondered, how should this machine even know what it has to print? And how can someone print exactly what he or she needs? ”
“Eventually, we tested some things and looked into different stories and we ultimately ended up with something like “virtual playdough”. The big problem with this concept is that the user needs constructional knowledge to build something with it. And even if you have this knowledge, you wouldn’t be able to create something very precise by hand, even if you had support tools. The printing is only one step; creating the design is the harder part that has to be completed first.”
Anyone can create anything
“Having a substantial focus on the generation of the designs is something that didn’t initially exist in the 3D printing industry. The industry mainly focuses on making the equipment and the quality of the created products better and better. And while production has become a lot better now, the people working with it are wondering about how the designs should be made. With the concept of “virtual playdough”, anyone can create anything they want from a computer screen.”
“But, most people don’t have the constructional knowledge, an aesthetic understanding or the time to do so. So from there we took a step back and started providing nice templates that already looked good. People can then actually adjust the templates to their needs and create products within seconds instead of days. This is how our initial idea turned into our online platform paramate.”
“It took us a lot of time to get our first clients because people wouldn’t understand why they would need a system like paramate to create something they were already producing manually. We eventually found this guy who was creating gripping systems for robots. He needed our product because his gripping systems needed to be able to hold all kinds of objects. You wouldn’t think about it, but for each kind of product, you may need a slightly different grip to be able to hold it. There are so many rules and complexities to consider.”
Generate different models in seconds
“So this customer eventually figured that we could provide him with what he needed. Without us, he would have needed to produce and design different models of the gripping system for different products. This would take perhaps a day for each individual design, but with our product, he could just simply generate the different models within mere seconds. Subsequently, we took this case study to an exhibition and won a startup competition. Since then we started to get more and more customers. More and more people started to understand our product now.
“Concerning our monthly revenues, I can’t say much about it right now. At the moment, we are working with 11 people who have done so for almost four years. Our biggest investor at the moment is bmp Ventures. We are now working on getting good figures so our valuation goes up and eventually this should lead to a better position in the market to raise our next round.”
Getting into a network with EIT Digital
“While the money we won during the EIT Digital Challenge 2017 isn’t an amazingly high amount (50.000 euro), it is still a very fair sum. Every bit of money helps a lot. The best part of their aid, however, is getting into a network, from which we can get into contact with other companies and investors. For example, I just met one of the first creators of Shapeways. They would be the perfect customer for us. Without EIT Digital, we wouldn’t get in touch with companies like these as easily.”
“As soon as we start exploring what EIT Digital knows and what contacts they have, we will find even more potential customers. We know a lot of German companies, and some big players in other countries like Phillips, but when it comes to other industries, we know far too little. Therefore EIT Digital will be very helpful to identify and explore these kinds of markets. Around five years from now, we want to be the market leader, have revenues of around 30M, with 138 employees in total and have a fully scalable product.”