Anna, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D scanning and printing in the first place?
I’m a diplomat by trade. For years I’ve worked at various international and domestic non-profits. My last job brought me to Moscow where I met a group of loveable nerds who happened to be creating a 3D start-up called Artec. Because of my native English, they asked me to write a few letters to some potential distributors around the world. That’s how I got sucked into the wondrous world of 3D scanning/3D printing.
How was that very first experience with 3D Printing?
I was green to the field. Very green. I barely learned enough about 3D scanning to properly do a demo and flew to my first Euromold show in Frankfurt in 2009. There, the venue was a-buzz about 3D Printing and how it was going to revolutionize manufacturing. Frankly, I didn’t understand the big deal. I couldn’t comprehend how “additive” and “subtractive” manufacturing (think a CNC machine) were that much different and why one was so much better than the other. My question to everyone at that show: “Why exactly is this revolutionary?”.
Ultimately, once I started learning more about the “old” way of doing things and how manufacturing processes looked before, I started appreciating 3D printing more and more…but it was a gradual understanding.
After representing the manufacturer for so many years I was curious about what it would be like to be on the other side of things…what would it be like to be a distributor myself? 3DComplect.ru is a relatively small distributor of 3D technologies in Moscow and I’m its co-founder and General Manager. We provide 3D-related services, training and sales and I think are a very typical company in our industry.
A little while after I started 3DComplect, my old boss from Artec, Mr. Andrey Klimov (Artec’s main inventor and co-founder) came to me asking whether I wanted to start a company with him because he was leaving Artec and had some ideas for new 3D technologies. The idea was intriguing. He and a few of his techie friends spent the next half a year creating the Thor3D scanner and we debuted it at Euromold 2015.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about one of those companies to share with us?
[Re: Artec] Bootstrapping is hard. Very early on at Artec, when we were extremely poor, we couldn’t scrap up enough cash for even the most essential things. Even though our 3D scanner retailed for $11,000, we had no money for cardboard boxes to ship them in. So frequently, our sales guys (who were also our logistics and tech-support guys) would visit a local supermarket to beg for clean boxes. Our first few scanners came to our wonderful and courageous early-adaptors in Kellogg’s and Nestle boxes.
[Re: 3DComplect] Doing 3D scanning service jobs is actually a lot of fun. When you work for a manufacturer you rarely do them, but working for a local service bureau, you come across them often. Every day brings a new request and a new client. Within the last 60 days my company has been asked to scan: live pigs in a pen, a car, a yacht, a plastic tool box, a human face, Santa Claus, a horse, a bumper from a Lexus, a Hindu temple in India, some electro-magnetic machinery in St. Petersburg and a handful of small, metal, unidentified objects. Whatever else can be said about our business, it is never boring.
As a woman entrepreneur, what was/ is your biggest challenge? Any challenge specific to the 3D printing industry?
I’m blessed. I grew up and lived in places where I never experienced sexism (or at least I didn’t notice it). What are my challenges as a woman entrepreneur? The exact same challenges as for a male-entrepreneur (keeping the lights on).
Do you see a difference between Silicon Valley and Moscow for women in the 3D scanning or printing industries?
Perhaps Russian men are a bit more gallant? My trusted “right hand man” is actually a woman by the name of Julia. She is a tom-boy and is in charge of all the scanning jobs. When she comes to a job-site with a 3D scanner in one hand and a laptop on her shoulder, most Russian men first stare and then run over to help her with the bags. At the end of the job they always offer her a ride. Silicon Valley is more egalitarian, so I don’t think Julia would find someone to carry her bags for her (equal rights and al’…).
Side note: The Soviet Union was a pretty progressive country as far as women’s rights were concerned. Right after taking over in the 1920’s, the Soviets allowed, and even encouraged, women to not only leave the traditional home-maker role, but also take up traditionally male-dominated positions in fields like railroad maintenance, construction, physics, economics, etc.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
We just started shipping out our new 3D scanner “Drake”. Drake is unique because it is a hand-held, wireless 3D scanner that can scan almost any-sized object (from a coin to a car). I’m excited that our partners around the world are starting to receive them, use them and show them to potential clients. I’m waiting for feedback and case studies!
What was the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing or 3D scanning you’ve seen so far?
I’m a big fan of Made in Space (a 3D printer developed specifically to be used on the International Space Station). I’ve visited them in California a few years ago. Once they started explaining the challenges and, more importantly, the advantages of 3D printing in space, it became apparent that what they are doing is important.
One challenge: there is no gravity. That means that the excess material left over after printing (the garbage) is not pulled down to the waste-tray. The little bits of plastic float away and get stuck in the “nooks and crannies” of the ISS. This is very dangerous and a problem that other 3D-printer manufacturers do not have to solve.
One advantage: don’t have to wait six months for a simple replacement part like a plastic holder to a large metal bin that is now floating around the cabin (not everything on the ISS is made of metal…plastic parts are common and often break).
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Why would we need to? If this field is promising and interesting – both men and women will be attracted to it. I don’t see an advantage of trying to encourage a larger presence of one sex over another sex in 3D printing or any other field.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!