Nancy Liang is one of the founders of Mixee Labs, which is a platform for designers to create customizable objects and sell them online. Thinking about my talk with Nancy brings back the first piece of advice she offered, it was almost too simple but as we talked more about it I realized that in the 3D printing industry her advice is a challenge to put into practice.
Nancy you’ve created your own business around 3D printing and I’m curious what advice you have for others interested in learning more about 3D printing or starting their own business in this industry?
Nancy: From a business perspective 3d printing is expensive but the upside is that you can print one thing at a time. With traditional manufacturing the per piece price might be lower but you have to produce in large batches. Per piece 3D printing can be expensive, so it’s very important to think about where the value is.
When you say that it’s important to think about where the value is, are you talking about for the customer or for the company? Maybe both?
Nancy: I’ll tell you a story, when I was in 2nd grade I created an ashtray in my school’s art class. My parents didn’t smoke and it was a really kind of ugly and misshapen piece of clay but it was valuable because their little 2nd grader made it, and painted it. And my Dad still has it in his office because it has value. There’s a ton of different reasons why something valuable, it could be that there’s a great story behind it, or because it’s customizable. For example there’s not really a great way to make a little figurine of yourself other than with 3D printing because traditional manufacturing doesn’t lend itself to that.
When you’re looking for value in your niche so that you can build your business or provide a service that isn’t currently available how do you approach this idea of creating value?
Nancy: A lot of people, they start from technology, and what I mean is they think, “Ok have a printer (or I have access to a 3D printer)… what can I make with the it”. So they make things that are cool because it’s 3D printed but just because you can make something that’s 3D printed doesn’t mean that it’s a good commercial product.
I‘m starting to notice that the importance that a product was created with a 3D printer is becoming less and less at the forefront and instead it’s turning into the quality of the object or the uniqueness of the product. Have you noticed that as well?
Nancy: Yes exactly, so remember that story about the dog owners that created a prosthetic for their dog? The fact that the prosthetic was created using 3D printing is cool yes, but that’s not the part that melts peoples heart and gets them interested. What gets peoples attention is the fact that there was a problem and they solved it. That’s where the value is for them.
Do you have any final words that you’d like to share before we say good-bye?
Nancy: Like everything that grows fast 3D printing is fascinating, and one of the things that fascinates me about it is how fast it’s growing and that people are finding new applications for it everyday.
Awesome! Thanks so much for letting me interview today I totally appreciate you taking the time to do this with me today!
Nancy: Thanks for reaching out, it was a pleasure!
And don’t forget to join the Women in 3D Printing group on LinkedIn, click here to join!