There are apps to preserve family memories, apps that enable you to read your kids a book when you’re not around, and apps for just about everything. And now there’s one for digitally storing and sharing handprints and footprints of your lovely offspring.
Handpressions for iPad lets you create individual profiles for everyone in the family, tracking the growth of their hands and feet as they progress from babies through to, well, whenever they start complaining about your obsessive growth-tracking. Unfortunately, it remains a US-only service for now though.
Once you’ve created an account, you’ll see three sections on the main screen – profiles, capture and create.
The first port of call should be to start creating profiles for everyone you wish to track.
Now, you can start capturing hands and feet for posterity, following the guidelines laid out by Handpressions.
Though this is designed to take photos of physical hands and feet, there’s nothing stopping you from capturing existing paint-based prints you’ve already made. Let’s be honest, if you’re a parent, you probably have something like this on your wall already, right?
You can crop, rotate, erase and brush-up to make it print-worthy…
…and even start messing around with blurring and lines.
To ensure the correct size is captured, you’ll need to measure the original hand/foot to ensure this is stored and displayed with the correct dimensions. The last thing you want is to give your 1-month-old a pair of Sideshow Bob-esque clodhoppers.
From your stored or freshly-captured images, you can then go into the e-shop to request prints of your handiwork – which could be a good gift idea.
There are north of 400 designer templates available at launch, each of which can be customized and delivered directly to anyone’s door.
Though this is being pitched as a hand/foot-specific app, it really could be used for capturing anything, including animal paw-prints and even faces. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
Handpressions is the brainchild of Carla Valdes, a former General Partner at Fortify Ventures where she managed its accelerator program and events. And you can download it now for free from the App Store – but it’s iPad-only, and restricted to the US.
Meanwhile, check out the official promo skit below.
Go here to see the original: Handpressions: Capture, store and print your kids’ hand and footprints directly from your iPad
It may seem like small potatoes, but Polish 3D printer manufacturer Zortrax has chalked a 5,000 unit order from Dell. This is the first I’ve heard of a mass order of home 3D-printing equipment and it means a real boon for the budding Olsztyn-based company.
“Dell kept in touch with us when we were still in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign. We weren’t in a position to make them a reasonable business offer at that time, since our production volume was very limited,” said Rafał Tomasiak, Zortrax CEO. “At that point in time the production was very tedious, every single printer was quality checked and tested by us. Business negotiations with Dell were stalled at some point and we focused on shipping the printers to our Kickstarter backers. Now the situation is much different, we are prepared for large quantity orders.”
Zortrax launched last May and is now shipping to happy Kickstarter backers. I’ve used the printer multiple times and was very impressed by the print quality and build. The company is poised to be a major player in the European market and, with this investment by Dell, potentially globally. The company said the the printers are headed toward Dell’s central and east Asia offices.
“Frankly speaking, we were surprised that any company, even a company like Dell, wants to place such an order! But after a while we realized how many printers we use in our own office… For a designer who prints a large number of prototypes it is much more useful to use 10 smaller printers on one desk, which operate simultaneously, rather than one with a larger build volume,” said Tomasiak.
Go here to see the original: Polish 3D Printer Zortrax Sells 5,000 Units To Dell
Today at CES 2014, MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis announced the MakerBot Replicator 3D Printing Platform including the new Mini, Z18, and prosumer Replicators. This “platform” consists of the MakerBot Replicator Mini, a smaller 3D printer with the build volume of the original MakerBot Cupcake, the large Z18, and a new Replicator printer.
The first in the family is a new, smaller Replicator called the Mini. Pettis called it the “consumer 3D printer” with one-touch 3D printing as well as printing via mobile devices. It includes Wi-Fi and a built-in camera so you can monitor the things you build on the device. It also requires no leveling to print in PLA filament. You can also share photos of your device taken from inside the Mini thanks to a built-in camera. The Mini has an easy-to-maintain extruder that snaps in and out of the device. It costs $1,379 and will ship in the spring.
“It’s kind of a big deal,” said Pettis.
The company also announced the MakerBot Replicator (actually the fifth generation of the device), a prosumer machine that prints in PLA filament. It has an 11% larger build volume (8x10x6 inches), faster build times, and has 100-micron layer resolution. A 3.5-inch screen on the device allows you to print right from it and preheat the printer or change the filament. You can connect to the machine via Wi-Fi, USB stick, Ethernet, or USB. It also allows you to access your own personal 3D object library and includes a small camera to monitor your print progress as well an instant build plate leveling system. It is available today for $2,899 and will ship in a few weeks.
They also showed the new MakerBot Z18, a huge replicator that can make objects at 12x12x18 inches – a truly gigantic build envelope. Pettis said that the company would use the device to make MakerBots. It has an enclosed build chamber and prints in PLA.
The company has also updated the desktop app for monitoring and controlling your printer as well as a mobile app that sends alerts when things happen on the printer and in the cloud.
After dedicating his presentation to all the MakerBot operators around the world, Pettis also announced a partnership with Softkinetic, a 3D sensor manufacturer to create the “futuristic 3D scanners of tomorrow.”
“Makerbot is an innovation company. We innovate so others can innovate,” he said. “We’re a manufacturing education in a box.”
Pettis announced that the company has sold more than 44,000 MakerBots and currently has 450 employees around the world. He expects to see a million MakerBots “in the distance.” There are also more than 218,000 digital designs uploaded to and 48 million downloads from the company’s 3D digital design sharing platform, Thingiverse.
Pettis also described the success of their two retail stores in Boston and Manhattan as well as the new store in Greenwich, CT. Each store has a 3D photo booth where customers can scan and print their own heads and purchase MakerBots and plastic filament. Finally Pettis announced MakerBot Entertainment, a set of toys and character models that users can buy and print at home. The products are part of the MakerBot’s burgeoning 3D model shopping experience.
In short, MakerBot updated their entire line and has proven itself, again, to be the Apple of the 3D printing industry. More as we get it.
Go here to read the rest: MakerBot Unveils The Replicator Mini, Z18, And A New Prosumer Replicator
Flipboard has confirmed that it raised an additional $50 million, which will close out the Series C round of financing that it brought on in September. In addition to the new funding, Flipboard is also announcing that it has also surpassed the 100-million-user milestone.
The additional funding, which was first reported by Fortune, will also be led Rizvi Traverse Management, the investment fund run by under-the-radar Suhail Rizvi. The funding closed last week, according to a company spokesperson, and brings the total amount raised to more than $160 million.
Valuation was pegged at $800 million, which was only slightly below the $1 billion that had previously been rumored. Existing investors, which include Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Index Ventures, and Insight Venture Partners, also participated.
Flipboard’s raise comes as the company continues to add new users. The company now has more than 100 million users, which is up from 85 million, at the time that it confirmed the first half of the Series C funding.
It has also been working to give users more tools to build magazine-like feeds of their favorite pieces of content. In March, it launched the 2.0 version of its product, which unveiled the magazine feature. Soon after, it enabled users to share those custom feeds with their friends.
All of that was meant to attract more brand advertisers, which the company hopes will treat its content more like magazines, in terms of how much they’re willing to pay to reach Flipboard readers. By placing their ads in a clean, well-lit, and attractive space, the hope is that Flipboard can command higher premiums than one would find in a typical mobile app.
It took that one step further in November, when it launched tools to enable brands to build their own catalogs. Those catalogs are meant to evoke a better shopping (or at least browsing experience) than one would find on most e-commerce sites.
The strategy appears to be working so far. While Flipboard has declined to give out revenue numbers in the past, in November CEO Mike McCue told TechCrunch:
At a high level, the economics for ad deals on Flipboard near print, as opposed to digital CPMs – which has always been a goal of ours,” he says. “This kind of brand advertising sells for about the same as what it sells for in print pages in Vanity Fair.
To continue getting more advertisers on board, and to keep moving its product forward, Flipboard expects to hire pretty aggressively over the next year. The company has about 100 employees today, according to CTO Eric Feng, and expects that to double to 200 by the end of next year. Hires will be focused on engineering and adding to its sales team.
Read the original post: Confirmed: Flipboard Raises Another $50 Million To Close Out Its Series C Round
One of the popular use cases for Dropbox, which just this month hit 200 million users, is photo storage. In addition to saving photos from your desktop to Dropbox by way of drag-and-drop, the company also added automatic photo uploads to its mobile application back in 2012. Today, a new service called Printhug lets you do something useful with your expanding Dropbox photo collection – by simply dropping photos into a select folder, Printhug will automatically print and ship photos to any address of your choosing.
Printhug is the first product to publicly launch out of Israeli startup Token Labs, which was founded this March by Nir Buschi, who previously spent three-and-a-half years as VP of Business Development at Wibiya (acquired by Conduit), and Shachar Tal, formerly the CTO at Equitick and Gamescale.
However, the service was not the first product the team had actually built. “We stumbled across the need of a simple photo printing solution while working on the other products,” explains Buschi.
Token Labs’ other photo products are still in private beta, he says, and are more social in nature. He declined to provide further details about these products, but says that it’s possible that Printhug could connect with one of the company’s other offerings in the future.
“The more we researched and spoke to people about it, we understood there were many barriers to printing photos. It’s a time-consuming task, uploading, downloading, driving, waiting in line – it’s a hassle,” says Buschi. “Many people do not have the time for that, and for that reason they just don’t print even though photo prints have a special and personal touch to them.”
So the team decided they wanted to come up with a way to offer a simpler solution. Like Dropbox itself, using Printhug isn’t much difficult than dragging and dropping items into a folder. To get started, you authorize the application, which creates a “Printhug” folder within your Dropbox “Apps” folder to which you add the photos you want to have printed. This allows Printhug to work on any platform where Dropbox works – web, mobile, tablets, or desktop.
Printhug watches that folder in real time and then automatically sends an email invoice after you finish shuffling around your photos. You receive the invoice, pay online, and then the photos ship out in the standard 4×6 format. The company is working with a handful of printing partners in Israel and the U.S., and is working to make connections in Europe, too. The photos are $0.39 each, and the shipping cost is a flat $3.00 worldwide for now, at least.
In addition, Printhug includes a few hacks for sending photos to new addresses, requesting more copies, or soon, specifying different sizes, too. In the case of the former, you can create a sub-folder in the Printhug folder, throw in a text file or doc with a different address or addresses from the one you set up in your Printhug account, and the service will automatically ship photos to those addresses instead. As for requesting more copies or different print sizes, you can again use a new folder, or edit a file name to include the request. For example, you could make a folder called “8 Copies” or rename a file “5x7_photoname.jpg” or “8copies_photoname.jpg” as a way of communicating your request.
Doing this makes using the Printhug service a bit more hands-on than maybe originally intended, but it is a straightforward enough method which would work fine for the occasional one-off request.
A number of companies have tried to go into the photo-print business, competing with giants like Shutterfly, launching as standalone web and mobile applications, or offering prints in conjunction with a variety of photo products like photo gifts and books. But Printhug’s support for working right within Dropbox could be a draw for those who aren’t interested in adopting an entirely new product, and just want to stick with something they already know.
The company is currently based just outside of Tel Aviv and is a bootstrapped team of just the two founders. You can try out Printhug for yourself here.
3D printing is all the rage and it’s hard to know just where to start. If you have a budding manufacturing magnate on your Christmas list we’ve got a few fun things for them to check out. One word of advice? Don’t buy cheap 3D printers. I’ve tested a few so far and a number of the “cheap” open source models and some of the models you find at Office Depot are unusable at best. It hurts me to say this but there is really a race to the bottom when it comes to 3D printing right now. Things may be expensive, but like any early-adopter you should save your pennies and pick the right model for the job.
First, I’d recommend the Makerbot Replicator 2X, an “experimental” Makerbot that can print using corn-starch-based PLA and plastic ABS. Being able to print in both materials is vitally important if you want to make high quality items and each material has its different qualities. For example, you can print translucent objects with PLA but not ABS and ABS objects are far more resilient than PLA objects.
At $2,799 it’s not a cheap toy, but if you’ve been planning to jump into 3D printing there’s no time like the present. I actually make a little money using MakeXYZ, a market for 3D printed objects. By printing things for other people you can actually pay for the ‘bot and the printing material in a few months.
Want to spend a little less? Take a look at the Afinia H series, a $1,599 printer with a smaller build plate than the Makerbot but, in some ways, superior resolution. I tested the rugged little Afinia and came away impressed. You can order the printers here.
Don’t want to spend too much? 3D Systems has released the Sense scanner, a $399 model that requires you to move the scanner around an object in 3D space. They’re beginning to ship now and we’ll have a full review shortly, but that’s the gist of it.
Finally, you could probably use some filament. While Makerbot sells their own excellent filament, I’ve had good luck with Monoprice. You may have to mess around with the spool holder for your printer – Monoprice’s spools don’t fit the stock Makerbot spool holder – but you will save about $25 off of Makerbot’s prices.
Be sure to leave plenty of room under the tree for your printers – these things aren’t tiny – and enjoy entering the amazing 21st century.
Originally posted here: Gift Guide: Gadgets For Budding 3D Printing Fans
We are about to embark on amazing adventure and we need your help. In January we are holding our first Hardware Battlefield in Las Vegas, Nevada to coincide with CES. We will bring 15 great hardware startups, a gaggle of amazing judges, and a 3D-printed trophy of your design.
We need 3D designers to build us an amazing, open source trophy that Shapeways will print for us. If your model is chosen you will receive a Makerbot Digitizer and our unending appreciation as well as a link to your work.
How do you enter? Create a 3D model taller than six inches and submit it to Shapeways with the tag “Techcrunch.” Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, when you’ve uploaded your model and we will pick a winner at the end of November. You will receive a print and we will use another copy as our Hardware Battlefield trophy.
What are we looking for? Anything as long as it looks great as a trophy, is sufficiently regal-looking, and is amazing. We want robots, planetoids, and 3D printer nozzles blown up to maximum resolution. We want something that epitomizes the spirit of adventure, fun, and hard work that it takes to make a cool hardware startup.
So enter today. We need you and we want our Hardware Battlefield winner to go home with an amazing trophy of your design.
Read more from the original source: We Need You To Design The Hardware Battlefield Trophy
Fans of outré 3D prints like the Liberator or trademark-protected Mechwarrior robots can now obfuscate their prints using Disarming Corruptor, a system that temporarily scrambles 3D objects and allows authorized users to descramble them with a key. Created by Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, the program is a commentary on the censorship of 3D objects and an interesting way to trip up folks who might be snooping through your print files.
“In a time of prolific online espionage, crackdowns on file-sharing, and a growing concern for the 3D printing of illegal items and copyright protected artefacts, DC is a free software application that helps people to circumvent these issues,” wrote Plummer-Fernandez. “Inspired by encryption rotor machines such as the infamous Enigma Machine, the application runs an algorithm that is used to both corrupt STL files into a visually-illegible state by glitching and rotating the 3D mesh, and to allow a recipient to reverse the effect to restore it back to its original form. The file recipient would need both the application and the unique seven digit settings used by the sender, entering the incorrect settings would only damage the file further.”
Companies like Create It Real are already working on databases of “forbidden” objects. DC, then, works as a counter to these censorship systems. It also acts as a form of copy protection, ensuring people can download your STL files and unlock them with your permission.
“When patent trolls and law enforcement agencies find these files on sharing sites they will only see abstract contortions, but within the trusting community these files will still represent the objects they are looking for, purposely in need of repair,” he wrote.
You can download the program here for OSX and Windows and Linux versions are forthcoming. It doesn’t seem to work on Mavericks yet, so downloader cavete.
See the article here: Disarming Corruptor Can Temporarily Scramble 3D Models To Confuse Snoops
Helen Foley is Marketing Executive at Elanders, a global printing group with production units in nine countries on four continents.
Love it or hate it, 3D printing is here to stay. It is considered the future of print and manufacturing, and is set to dramatically change the way we buy and produce products in the future.
Over the years, experts have been researching and developing different concepts, printing designs and processes and several breakthroughs have been made — including a working 3D kidney made in 2002 by the Wake Forest Institute and a prosthetic leg, inclusive of the knee and foot, etc. made in 2008 by Bespoke Innovations.
Outside of professional and engineering circles, consumers have been able to get their hands on the first affordable devices that are powerful enough to produce small 3D printed objects, mainly through Kickstarter projects. Those who have had their eyes on the slightly larger machines for bigger objects can buy 3D printers like The Buccaneer.
More commercially, leading retail businesses such as grocery giant Tesco have declared their interest in integrating a 3D printing service into their stores in the future.
So, to help you get inspired by the “next big thing” in tech and design, we’ve gathered the 15 of the best 3D-printed items from 2013.
If you’re not in the US or your idea wasn’t noticed by Google during their “#ifIhadglass” Twitter campaign earlier this year, there is an alternative! Chinese entrepreneur Sunny Gao proved this by printing a fully functioning pair of Google Glasses at a hackathon event in Shanghai.
Unfortunately the 3D printed version of the glasses doesn’t boast Wi-Fi or Bluetooth support, unlike the real thing – but they look awfully close. On the plus side, you have an option to choose your preferred colour, which will please the more fashion-conscious amongst us!
Chinese students from the School of Automobile and Mechanical Engineering at Changsha University of Science and Technology constructed their first race car, “FNX-13,” using 3D-printed parts. The race car took the brains and brawn of 40 students, and uses a Honda 600CC motorcycle engine, allowing it to reach speeds of 150km per hour (95 mph).
Despite being a manufacturing marvel, the project is still a long way from becoming affordable for the masses, with as much as $37,570 spent on printing materials and equipment, since the cost of 3D printing is still reasonably high.
Easton LaChappelle, a 17-year-old high school student from Colorado, used free online resources for 3D printers to construct a fully functional prosthetic arm and hand. The high school student found inspiration from one of his past projects which involved building a robotic hand, made entirely of Lego when he was 14. His creation was able to open and close its fingers using two things: fishing line and servo motors.
LaChappelle has already visited The White House and demonstrated his new invention to US President Barack Obama. Now, the high school student is working at NASA on the Robonaut team.
Layers in Design have finally found a use for your collection of old water bottles. This new contraption, “Screw You Vase,” is priced at €130 (£110) and transforms 12 water bottles (all of a similar size) into a large vase.
The 3D-printed model is available in green or black and uses the cap on the top of the bottle. It then balances the three bottles from the centre to form the base of the vase before expanding out in a circular formation.
Finnish designer Saad Alayyoubi, AKA SaGaDesign, hasn’t just created a perfectly good stand for your iPad, but in fact, a work of art. The €161 (£136) miniature muscle-man, reminiscent of the Greek titan Atlas, not only looks impressive, but uses every bit of his 3D-printed strength to hold your iPad at the perfect viewing angle.
As mentioned on the product’s Shapeways page, it also appears to defy gravity as the mini man holds an object that is much taller than him. The product, named “Sisu” roughly translates to “determination” or “grit.”
Bespoke Innovations, mentioned in the introduction for being the makers behind the first 3D-printed prosthetic leg, can also be credited for the first 3D-printed acoustic guitar.
Why print a guitar? Well, there is a little-known fact that the supplies of exotic woods are running considerably low, so manufacturers of instruments need to start researching for alternative materials.
Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations says that the good news is, there is no Gold Standard for guitars compared to other stringed instruments like the violin, so they can be made of anything. In addition, guitarists prefer to have their own unique sound in addition to a customised guitar face, something that will be available with a truly original, 3D-printed guitar.
Andy Hudson-Smith and team, of The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at the University College London, discussed the design and construction process of building 3D printed mechanical clock on their blog.
Using the MakerBot Replicator 2, the team printed the clock pieces, consisting of cogs and connectors. Each cog took around two hours to print. Meanwhile, the frame sections took around three to four hours to print using the same settings.
To demonstrate the clock in action, creators use a 600g weight which requires winding every 48 hours.
If you’re on the road and your phone battery dies, you can’t always run the risk of using your car battery to charge it. So, the hand cranked power generator may be just what you need for your next trip.
The rotor spins up to 4,000 rpms and produces about 40 volts without any load; sufficient to charge the small gadgets we all carry around with us on a daily basis.
Erichsen, the designer behind the 3D-printed hand cranked power generator, was awarded the place of first runner up in CGTrader’s 3D printing competition, where he showcased his new creation.
Other 3D-printed items you might want to consider taking with you on your next trip are Gear Wraps. These small, strong and lightweight cable wraps are printed from the material ABS and were designed by Eddie Licitra.
Gear Wraps help you keep your ear phones, chargers and USB cables organised; removing the possibility of them being tangled with each other in your bag. The fact that they can now be printed on demand means you should never again run out of these handy little cable organisers.
This isn’t as much a 3D-printed item as it is a printer itself. 33-year-old Kodjo Afate Grikou wanted to help his community in West Africa, so they can use it to print utilities that they aren’t able to source locally, such as kitchen utensils for cooking.
The structure of the printer uses very little in terms of new parts, as it is mostly made up of e-waste and scrap metal. Before building, he set up his project on the European social funding website, ulule. The project received more than €4,000 (£3,400), despite the printer only costing him €73 (£62), which was mostly through purchasing new parts that he wasn’t able to source locally.
Grikou hopes that his innovation will inspire teenagers and young people in his community to attend school and gain an education so they can make further life changing developments that will benefit not only their lives, but also others around them.
The European Aerospace and Defence Group (EADS) printed this bicycle which weights 65 percent less than the traditional bicycles on the market today.
It is grown, rather than constructed, from nylon power using a process called additive layer manufacturing – which is similar to 3D printing. EADS combined this with another process called laser sintering to reinforce the structure and make the frame robust, yet light. The result: a product they are calling “Airbike.”
A similar process to laser sintering is also used by NASA. They have recently performed successful tests of their rocket injector, printed using a process called direct metal laser sintering.
The printed injector withstood a pressure of 1,400 pounds per square inch and 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Such figures signal huge progress in 3D printing and are too significant for future printers not to consider, when building their next creation.
Printed rockets might be too ambitious a project for you if you’re just starting out with 3D print, so perhaps try designing your own unique smart phone case first. There is a range of templates online for the latest smartphones regardless of whether you own an iPhone, Samsung, HTC or Nokia.
The case we’ve featured is from the Shapeways community, designed by user Genghis. It is printed using a strong and flexible plastic, starting at $20 (£12).
Of the various creations we’ve covered so far, the bionic ear is perhaps one of the most unusual. To construct the ear, Princeton University researchers print the polymer gel onto an approximate ear shape and implement calf cells onto the matrix. The sliver nanoparticles fuse together to create an antenna which picks up radio signals before being transferred to the cochlea, which translates the sound into brain signals.
Despite all of this, researchers have yet to draw up plans to attach the ear to the human head.
Drivers of older cars, such as the classic Aston Martin DB4, can often be heard saying ‘They don’t make them like this anymore!’ Well, with 3D printers available to consumers, plus a little bit of computer aided design (CAD) knowledge, you could effectively ‘make them like they used to’ once more and end up with a fully functioning life size car.
Ivan Sentch is currently building his very own Aston Martin DB4, made from a variety of plastics which can be bought for $30 per kilogram. He will then use plywood to hold the structure in place until every module is complete.
His estimations calculate that the finished product will cost $1,800 (£1,100), after installing parts such as the engine, drive train and suspension, taken from a Nissan Skyline.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Discuss in the comments.
Follow this link: 15 of the best 3D-printed items from 2013
This summer, the Y Combinator-backed startup Lob launched a new developer API which lets companies easily integrate printing and shipping services into their applications. Today, the company is announcing $2.4 million in seed funding from various YC partners and angel investors. Participating in the round were Kevin Hale, Dalton Caldwell, Sam Altman, Joshua Schachter, Alexis Ohanian, Paul Buchheit, Garry Tan, Polaris Partners, and other undisclosed investors.
With Lob, whose early adopters include CrowdTilt, ZenPayroll, LendUp, LocalOn, and others, developers can automate or print a variety of products on demand, including postcards, photos, flyers, posters, bills, checks, invoices, and more.
The company says it now has over 1,000 paying customers, and just hit $40,000 in revenue at the end of last month. It has also printed a million dollars worth of checks. On the horizon, there’s the potential for Lob to grow even larger, with now two Fortune 500 companies testing the service on a smaller scale. If those trials come to fruition, they could be multi-million dollar deals, the founders tell us.
A graduate of Y Combinator’s summer 2013 program, Lob was started earlier this year by University of Michigan grads Harry Zhang and Leore Avidar. Zhang had been inspired to create the service after previously working as a product manager at Microsoft, where he saw the difficulties involved with customer mailings – the company had interns stuffing envelopes in a mailroom for weeks, at times.
Today, Lob’s use cases go beyond your typical printed materials, like postcards, invoices or promotional mailings, for example. The company already offers tools like address verification, and “Smart Packaging” (where it picks the best packaging type automatically), and now it’s also working to enable printing of other products, too, including photo albums/photo books, and even t-shirts and mugs. Longer term, the team is considering moving into physical books as well, given customer demand.
“When we think of printed products, it’s anything that ink can touch,” explains Zhang. He wants Lob to be a one-stop shop where companies can manage all their printings. And although it’s still early days, the solution is growing in popularity. Customers generally come in with a single request, but then realize how they can use Lob in other areas, too. Today, almost every customer is using two products at the minimum, even though over half had arrived seeking just a single solution.
The team was also surprised to see international sign-ups, given its U.S. focus, with customers arriving from South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, then opting to have Lob print and ship items overseas. “A lot of international companies don’t have local ways to do this, so they’re willing to pay a little more,” Avidar says.
In terms of its pricing, Lob has been competitive, but maybe not the cheapest option, though that’s changing as it begins to scale. In a few months’ time, Lob’s pricing will drop by an average of 10% across the board, we’re told. (Some products might not change, while others may drop by as high as 20%-30%, to give you an idea).
But Lob’s advantage hasn’t necessarily been one based just on price – it’s about the model. Competitors have traditionally required businesses to pay large amounts upfront, or even pre-pay for their entire order, but Lob lets its customers pay as you go.
“The fact that it’s a variable expense and you can do everything on a minimum quantity of one – that’s really the differentiator,” says Avidar. “You can’t really go anywhere and say: ‘I want to print one postcard’,” he adds.
With the additional funding, Lob is working to add new product categories and hire engineers to help build out its API. The company wants to double (or more) its four-person team over the next few months, and support for photo albums and t-shirts is arriving soon.
Go here to see the original: Cloud Printing & Shipping Service Lob Raises $2.4 Million Seed Round