Feb 25, 2016 | By Alec

3D printing conventions are the best place the learn more about the most exciting ideas and up-and-coming startups in the field of 3D printing, and RapidPro is usually no different. The 3D printing convention in the ‘Benelux’ area (The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg) features a startup award competition that never fails to find the best and most revolutionary 3D printing startup concepts. The three finalists for the 2016 award have just been announced: Robot 3D printing pioneers SuGu Advanced Manufacturing - 3D Robot Printing, metal 3D printing developers Metal Technics 3D and 3D printable material specialists 3Devo. The winner will be announced on the March 1, the first day of the convention.

For those of you who’ve never been RapidPro, which is set to be held in Veldhoven in the Southern Netherlands from 1 to 3 March 2016, is a place to experience the entirety of the 3D printing industry in Benelux. Over the last few years it has grown into an important regional convention in regards to prototyping, 3D printing production and product development, while a number of other technologies are also represented. RapidPro’s startup award always attracts numerous entries from across the Netherlands and Belgium, and this year’s edition was specifically focused on the production chain surrounding the fast development of prototypes and products. However three entries, the judges revealed, stood out head and shoulders above the rest. One of those three will be given the RapidPro Startup Award 2016 by Nico Velzel, member of the executive board of RapidPro. So what are these three startups developing to merit this nomination? As each is fundamentally different from the others, we wanted to take a closer look at these very promising startups.

SuGu Advanced Manufacturing – 3D Robot Printing

Founded in 2014 by veteran entrepreneurs and based in the harbor of Rotterdam, SuGu Advanced Manufacturing is a 3D printing developer who has actually made headlines before. They were involved in the development of a 20-feet long 3D printed submarine prototype for Ortega Submersibles, though this is actually just one example of what robot-based 3D printing can achieve. “Our secret isn’t just a technical story. Aside from the technology behind the 3D printing robot, the printhead, the software and our high level of precision, it’s really the way we approach problems,” they say.

In a nutshell, this young startup offers 3D printing solutions for large products using bio-based plastics. “We will build up our advanced manufacturing capacity fast to rapidly become a serious 3D manufacturing hub for large plastic products for construction, maritime and offshore, manufacturing and maintenance industries,” they say. Closely working together Transmare Compounding, they are working on new plastics with unique properties and are applying them in their services immediately. They have, for instance, developed a bio-based bamboo material mixed with raw materials to increase its strength.

SuGu has combined this approach with the innovative robotic technology of 3D Robot Printing, Jasper Menger’s startup with whom they built the 3D printed submarine. By joining their material knowledge with Menger’s Robotic 3D printer with a 2 meter reach, the sky has become the limit. “To stay ahead of the market, we focus on co-creation with leading companies to manufacture advanced industrial products on demand such as the flanges for connecting pipes or the construction elements of the second skin for SuGu Warehouse,” they say. As the 3D printed submarine was only the first result of this potent collaboration, SuGu Advanced Manufacturing – 3D Robot Printing was very understandably nominated.

Metal Technics 3D

Less well-known, but not less promising, is Metal Technics 3D. A very young Belgian company, it was founded in 2015 in Kortrijk by researcher Thomas Bossuyt. As he says on his website, he was responding to the growing gap between the possibilities presented by metal 3D printing and the engineering expertise required to use it. The young company is involved as a consultant, engineer and a producer for metal 3D printing projects, and helps companies gain more insights into the advantages that metal 3D printing brings to existing technology. Once designs have been optimized, MT3D also takes care of the production process for prototypes and small batches, using an in-house Laser Beam Melting 3D printer.

It’s the type of company that is essential for the advancement of complex metal 3D printing technologies, which are still hardly being adopted. It’s nomination is therefore also quite understandable. “Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of this technology will bring you closer to the right applications. When used for the appropriate purposes, metal 3D printing will increase performance of your processes and applications and can imply serious cost reductions,” they say. “Our goal is to help our clients select the most suitable technique for each application, independently of our in-house manufacturing capabilities.”


The last finalist is an Utrecht-based material specialist that actually grew out of Devoteq, a Dutch mechanical engineering company. Out of all the three finalists, 3Devo is the only one with a tangible product, but it’s a remarkable one: the NEXT 1.0, the world’s first high-end, consumer-friendly filament extruder designed with the goal of putting high quality filament in the hands of makers of all types. It is, they say, a solution for the high costs involved in 3D printing, the limited material options available and the high levels of waste we all generate.

Though they have been working on their promising desktop filament factory for more than two years now, their interesting extrusion unit previously ran into some complications that prevented them from bringing their machine into the hands of consumers. Unfortunately, they ‘only’ gathered €26,000 euros during a Kickstarter campaign in September 2015, failing to reach their goal. Nonetheless, they have incorporated feedback and now have a finished product.

Though financial issues doubtlessly set back production, 3devo is taking pre-orders for their machine, which is far more promising than a failed Kickstarter campaign suggests. “Placing professional quality filament extrusion within everybody’s reach, the NEXT 1.0 employs intelligent automation that makes it easy to use, while also enabling maximum control over every aspect of the process. Elegant and versatile design meets high quality engineering, resulting in outstanding performance,” they say. Capable of extruding both ABS and PLA, and even enabling the recycling of other plastics to develop custom filaments in any color, it provides the user with full control over their materials and even supports sustainable and environmentally friendly 3D printing. In short, it definitely deserves a nomination.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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