The concept of 3D printing is rapidly growing in the manufacturing industry, but there is still significant room for growth in the consumer market (learn more about industry trends here). To leverage this opportunity, Valerie Mack (Master of Professional Studies, ’17), Khalil Hajji (Master of Engineering, 2017), Mutahir Kazmi (Master of Engineering, ‘17), and Leo Jingyang Liu (Master of Architecture, ‘18) founded Dimitri: a startup that aims to bring autonomy and consumer centricity to the world using 3D printing.
Valerie Mack describes Dimitri’s broad vision as “providing people with technology that gives them the ability to create things for themselves.” In terms of how Dimitri will exactly fulfill this objective, the team explored many possible avenues last year that included the construction of 3D printers, the design of the 3D printing software, and the challenges within such software. “There are many avenues and we are not locked into one yet since we are more focused on determining our potential customers’ needs,” said Mack. The team immersed itself in the customer discovery process to find the most effective way to make 3D printing more autonomous through talking to students on the Cornell campus and industry field experts. For example, Dimitri previously talked to Food Ink, the first 3D-printing restaurant based in London in which all furniture and food is created from 3D printing technology, to learn more about the creative ways in which different industries use 3D printing.
After the eLab Pitch Competition in New York City this past December, Dimitri began to narrow down its business model approach. After talking to many professionals at the event, the team realized that the general 3D printing industry is not very reliable. “Many factors affect the printing, from the actual creation of the model, to the software that is used to prepare the model, to even the temperature of the room itself,” Mack explains. In response, Dimitri is now creating “product slices” that are small versions of an initial prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) to test materials and gain feedback on the problems surrounding this uncertain technology. In particular, Dimitri is now creating product slices for shoes in which an individual’s foot is scanned and an insole is generated and printed out to test the accuracy of the assumption. The team also welcomed a new member, Leo Jingyang Liu, to help with the designing and modeling processes. Ultimately, Dimitri believes that the core issue of 3D printing is that there are no useful examples for people to use. Due to the limitations that affect the quality of printing, it is not reasonable for people to dive into such a heavy investment. Dimitri hopes to bridge this gap and eventually allow people to customize their apparel with their own hands.
With the technology, design, and printing industry being highly competitive, Dimitri sets itself apart by focusing on consumer impact and long-term positioning. Mack explains, “Many companies out there may want to position themselves to be first at the kick start of consumer 3D printing, and I understand that they want to build their brand early—but for Dimitri, we’re not just thinking about creating the next technology trend. We do not necessarily want people to depend on us but rather to have a platform that allows them to not have to depend on anyone. If people are willing to risk using your product even though you are not an “official” company yet, that is a great sign—that is the goal we are working towards.”
After being exposed to the many resources and mentors at the eLab program, Mack encouraged more students at Cornell to pursue entrepreneurship and to become a part of this learning community. “Don’t see entrepreneurship as easy or glamorous as it is definitely difficult and risky, but it is ultimately very rewarding,” Mack remarks. She also added that beginning this journey in college is the best time to do so not only because there is less concern for job and financial security, but also because there are so many resources that can help any aspiring entrepreneurs in taking these beginning steps.
Anyone who is interested or has had previous experience in 3D printing technology or simply wants to learn more about Dimitri can reach out to Val Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.