Printing for all

Printing for all

Most Canadians don’t realize that 3-D printing is cheaper and more accessible then ever before. One company is hoping people figure that out

To many, 3-D printing still seems like something from the future, but it’s surprisingly accessible. Toronto’s 3DPhacktory, for instance, offers high resolution, multipl-ematerial, 3-D printing to everyone from tech-savvy engineers with ready-to-print projects and art directors needing 3-D models to the guy on the street who has a sketch on a napkin. The company has been around since 2012 and business is good – it’s forecasting nearly $700,000 in revenues for this year – but it could be better.

Printing costs aren’t as expensive as people think, says 3DPhacktory’s founder and director, Laurie Mirsky. Prices start at $20 for something small, but can increase substantially for more complicated items. So far, it’s been mostly inventors who are using his services, though Energizer did enlist him to create a battery-operated toy designed by a child who won a contest. The general public, though, still has no idea they can get something made.

Most of the company’s outreach so far has been through Internet marketing. “It’s a matter of taking the companies that we do work for and publicizing what they do, then linking them to our website, which increases our traffic and presence on Google Search,” says Mirsky. The company budgets about $1,000 a month on marketing, mostly focused on Google AdWords, but that mainly reaches those who are already searching for what they do.

Mirsky faces two challenges he’d like solved: How can 3DPhacktory get more people to see the value in 3-D printing and how can it let those people know it exists?

- Diane Jermyn / Photograph by Margaret Mulligan / Illustrations by Chelsea Robinson

SUNIL MISTRY

PARTNER, KPMG ENTERPRISE

3DPhacktory is under-investing in its marketing budget. The company’s current spending and focus on Google AdWords amounts to only 2.7 per cent of its projected annual revenue. Reaching new audiences requires the company to invest in more than just search.

While the company has a good website and its organic search does well, it can do better. To drive more volume, I’d recommend providing a broader narrative on the entire design process and segment. Since the price barrier to entry for the design process is so low, the messaging needs to emphasize the additional value the employees and services bring to the product development process – from ideation through commercialization. That would help differentiate what 3DPhacktory offers to potential customers.

BRIAN MISKE

CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, KPMG LLP

Engineering companies have umbrella organizations that 3DPhacktory could connect with to find out if they hold events or professional development courses. If 3DPhacktory can sponsor an event, it would put its brand name and what it does out there, helping reach their market penetration deeper and quicker. It would also get 3DPhacktory in front of a bunch of professionals in a room, instead of doing one-offs when people drop in.

The company could put some of its marketing budget toward an arts exhibition or science show to give people an idea of what can be created with 3-D printing. That would reach more of the general public – people who aren’t necessarily engineers or inventors, but may be artists or just have creative ideas. The company could also contact students at universities who would likely find uses for 3-D printing.