Thoughts on building products, entrepreneurship, bicycling and whatever else strikes my fancy.

Case study: Lowering the barriers of entry to 3D printing

Problem:

In 2014, 3D printing was one of the hottest markets for venture capital dollars and media coverage. I joined up with the brilliant team at 3DPrinterOS to initially build encryption for the secure cloud transfer of 3D printing files (known as “gcodes”) from computers to machines. 

We realized pretty quickly that while the encryption problem was real, the much bigger opportunity to solve was lowering the barriers of entry into 3D printing so new users could embrace this disruptive technology. 

We hypothesized we could lower the barriers of entry into 3D printing and increase utilization of machines if we built a cloud-powered operating system that worked across multiple types of 3D printers, analogous to how Microsoft Windows worked across PCs from Hewlett Packard and Dell. 

Approach:

I set out to understand the current state of 3D printing by researching the market and testing out software from 20+ printer manufacturers. We filmed unboxing videos for many of the printer tests, to establish ourselves as thought leaders and improve our SEO. 

I also conducted user interviews with Fortune 500 companies, such as Ford and John Deere, to understand how they were currently using 3D printing, and what pain points existed within their current workflow. 

This work validated our hypothesis and built relationships that led to our first customers. The research gained shaped the MVP requirements, feature backlog, and user stories. With the MVP scoped out, I then spent two months in Estonia with my team driving towards a beta release. 

During this process, I built wireframes and prototypes to test the onboarding process with prospective users and used the knowledge gained to create in-app messaging, tutorials, and walkthroughs to improve the onboarding process.

Aaron Roy - Wireframes
Wireframe example

We launched a free beta version of the product in March 2015, and all focus shifted to feedback gathering, evangelizing the platform, and improving the feature set. I served as the primary tester of the platform with our beta users and established a robust forum for sharing walkthroughs and soliciting community bug reporting. 

I put together feedback surveys and created incentives (free t-shirts, early access to future new features, 3d printer filament giveaways) for users to test the beta release. I went on-site to multiple companies and educational institutions to observe how they would interact and add internal users to the new platform. I also used Intercom to communicate in-app with users and deliver A/B tests of different walkthroughs to understand the impact on improving metrics.  

Aaron Roy - Using Intercom for walkthroughs
Intercom is terrific for in-app messaging

Outcome:

Launching a new product is just part of the challenge. It’s what you do once it’s out in the wild that defines whether or not it will survive.

In analyzing our metrics post-launch, I was able to identify and guide the team to build low development, high-yield features that led to the first $500,000 in ARR.

3DPrinterOS has 100,000+ users in 100+ countries. Users have printed 1.3+ million parts and have logged 4.5+ million print hours. Clients include Google, NASA, John Deere, Duke, MIT, and Yale.

Aaron Roy - 3DPrinterOS Dashboard
Screenshot from 3DPrinterOS dashboard

Tools and tech used:

About

My name is Aaron Roy. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Wami, a B2B service for sending personalized, handwritten notes at scale.

Here is a bit more info about me and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  

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