The start-up 3D Spark wants to maximise the efficiency of the industrial production of components and assemblies. To this end, the founders have developed software that automatically identifies potentials for cost and resource savings in manufacturing. beyourpilot start-up consultant Felix Krieg has been assisting them with advice and support for over 1.5 years. We asked co-CEO Ruben Meuth five questions about the start-up. At 3D Spark, he is responsible for customer communication as well as finances and legal matters.
In the Eurozone alone, supply shortages are expected to cause economic damage of 920 billion euros by 2023. As a result, industry is lacking components and products of all kinds. This is where 3D printing can be the solution: 3D Spark offers its software-as-a-service (SaaS) for this and automates the identification of the cheapest, fastest, best and most sustainable manufacturing process for each component, currently with a focus on 3D printing.
The founders have worked together intensively for several years at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Additive Production Technologies IAPT in Hamburg-Bergedorf and have worked on industrial projects: Arnd Struve and Fritz Lange earned their doctorates in engineering, while Ruben Meuth most recently headed up sales there as Head of Business Development.
3D Spark was founded in the summer of 2021 with the help of beyourpilot start-up consultant Felix Krieg. The EXIST start-up grant also began in the same month. Since July 2022, the startup has also received InnoRampUp funding.
The 3D Spark platform (SaaS) developed has since been licensed to several industrial companies (OEMs and manufacturing service providers) and is being used successfully there. The team currently has eight members.
How did you come up with your business idea?
“I have been interested in this topic since the beginning of my master’s thesis: I wrote my thesis on the identification of economic use cases for 3D printing using software at the Fraunhofer IAPT and developed a prototype. Afterwards, I was hired by Olaf Steinmeier for a research project on exactly this topic.
I then quickly moved into the sales track, first as Key Account Manager Automotive and later as Sales Manager (Head of Business Development) and talked about the topic with many industrial customers.
With virtually all of them, I heard the challenge that although they are convinced of the benefits of additive manufacturing processes, they have difficulties in efficiently identifying the profitable and meaningful use cases.”
How did you come together to form the company?
“Together with Arnd Struve, Fritz Lange and also Julia Lakämper, we developed and rolled out the software prototypes for automotive and railway customers in several large industrial projects. This was so successful that a customer wanted to use this software concept industrially. Arnd, Fritz and I took this as an opportunity and founded 3D Spark, completely redeveloped the software to industrial standards and now of course offer updates, maintenance, support and also product liability, which R&D institutions like Fraunhofer are not allowed to do. We were later able to recruit Julia Lakämper as an employee, financed by initial sales.”
How did you come across beyourpilot, or rather our founding advisor Felix Krieg, and how could he help you?
“Sabayn Mirakai (formerly of the startup PANDA, a spin-off of the TU Hamburg) recommended us to you and that’s how we got to Felix. He showed us how to successfully navigate the rapids of the funding landscape – especially EXIST and InnoRampUp. His support as a start-up advisor looks versatile: for example, he points us to relevant programmes, ensures compliance with guidelines, supports us with feedback loops when writing the application and later when drafting the pitch, the deck and the storytelling…”
What have been your biggest obstacles so far?
“On the one hand, the software product development was a challenge, especially the industry standard that had to be adhered to, as well as all the required IT security requirements, etc.. On the other hand, the lengthy bureaucratic sales processes of corporate clients, which also include start-up-unfriendly hurdles such as a certain balance sheet total or a certain time on the market as a prerequisite, have strained us. This excludes you and you have to go through sales partners.”
What is your vision? Where do you see yourselves in the future?
“We dream of a production without waste. Parts manufacturing is the backbone of our industry! Billions of parts are produced every day and the question always arises: what is the best and safest supply chain? The key question is, what is the best manufacturing process? The answer is usually: we produce it this way because we have always done it this way.
The 3D Spark software provides every manufacturing company with a transparent decision-making basis for selecting the cheapest, fastest, safest and most sustainable manufacturing process for each of its components.
In this way, we enable our industrial customers to make well-founded decisions that minimise waste and make our economy and society more crisis-resistant! We are also doing our part to secure the future of German industry by empowering small and large companies to take their production to the next level.
Beyond 3D printing, we want to steadily expand the number of modelled processes (e.g. milling, casting) to solve the problem globally and thus save component costs and delivery times as well as CO2, and improve component qualities and supply chains.”