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From product launch to scaling your business internationally

During my 18 years in the Additive Manufacturing Industry, I have met several dozen 3D printing startups that developed their own unique and innovative technology. In most cases, these companies were built from small teams of 10-20 people, highly skilled individuals with a strong technical background.

I've encountered most of them at the stage where, after several years of research and development, they felt prepared to enter the market and sell their products to end-users. Through working closely with them, I discovered that in many cases, transitioning from R&D to marketing and sales is not always a smooth process.

What have I learned from the successes and failures of 3D printing companies, and what might be the optimal plan for initiating business activities following a long and meticulous development process for a new product? Here are my insights.

With the LOOP3D team at Formnext 2023. Image source: 3D Alliances

Evaluating market conditions

Assessing market conditions has been crucial for success in running a 3D printing startup. What was effective a decade ago differed from what worked five years ago, and it's vastly different from today's landscape. Market conditions are in a constant state of flux, making it imperative to understand the environment you are dealing with and to adjust your strategy accordingly when necessary.

It's no secret that the current conditions in the 3D printing industry pose significant challenges. While prototyping solutions have become relatively mature, accessible, and user-friendly for end-users, the implementation of AM manufacturing solutions is more complex, and the adoption curve for industrial users is considerably longer. Moreover, with hundreds of companies in the industry today, it's uncertain whether there's enough room for all of them.

For 3D printing startups, it's essential to work with a clear plan—from launching their products for the first time to scaling up the business. To generate demand for their products, they need to map and understand the problems and challenges their targeted customers are facing and ensure that their solutions truly address them.

With the ValCUN team at Formnext 2023. Image source: 3D Alliances

Setting a yearly working plan

After collaborating with dozens of 3D printing startups over the past decade, I've formulated what I believe to be the optimal plan for a company poised to launch its first product. This plan encompasses everything from selling the initial system to scaling up the business globally:

  • Step 1 - Beta program: initiate a first beta program for selected customers within your region or country. These customers should represent the top three industries you are targeting to ensure a diverse range of evaluations of your technology. Aim to involve a minimum of 3-5 customers in this phase, with a duration of 3-6 months.

  • Step 2 - Early production: after completing the beta program, proceed to directly sell 5-10 systems within your area or country to expand your customer base. Implement feedback gathered from the beta program to enhance your solution.

  • Step 3 - Setting a yearly working plan - establishing the appropriate organizational structure is crucial to supporting customers outside your country. This structure should encompass - technical support, technical training, channel partner business model, and and a distribution agreement.

  • Step 4 - Expanding to another country - establish an agreement with a single channel partner in a selected single country. Collaborate closely with your chosen channel partner to sell the initial systems.

  • Step 5 - Basic marketing plan - develop a cost-effective plan to promote your company at trade shows and through 3D printing media sites, effectively explaining your company and its unique technology.

  • Step 6 - Recruit AM talents - recruit experienced individuals capable of propelling your company to the next level, with a specific focus on marketing, sales, and channel management experts.

  • Step 7 - Recruit channel partners - define the ideal partner profile, establish a channel expansion plan, refine the partner business model, and implement comprehensive technical and sales training programs.

  • Step 8 - Case studies - share success stories of existing customers to illustrate how our technology has significantly enhanced their design and manufacturing processes, demonstrating increased effectiveness and efficiency.

  • Step 9 - Yearly marketing plan - expand your presence at international trade shows and initiate digital campaigns to generate leads for your channel partners, thereby creating demand for your solutions.

  • Step 10 - Build a global channel network - allocate resources to onboard, train, and support sales partners worldwide. Understand their needs and provide them with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively promote and sell your products to the right targeted industries.


Scaling up the business of a 3D printing startup is a challenging task, particularly in the current business environment. Assuming your technology addresses a genuine problem for end-users who can truly benefit from its use, the path to success requires a solid plan and the right team. Merely improvising as you progress will not be enough to transform your startup into a successful and profitable business.

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