As part of the ’SPbU Start-up - 2020’ contest, the Cloudprints team has developed a web platform to make 3D printing an ever more popular option in Russia. Thanks to this platform, ordinary users who have no technical education and no in-house device for 3D printing will be able to create high-quality custom-made products.

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‘3D printing opens up unique opportunities for people. It is not surprising that there are a lot of enthusiasts who are passionate about it. First of all, people are attracted by the fact that literally from nothing, from a mass of plastic, in two hours you can create anything. Today 3D printing is in demand among designers, architects and scientists. Unfortunately, the access to it is often problematic,’ said Artem Ponomarenko, second-year student of ‘Applied Mathematics and Informatics’ and the Cloudprints team-leader.

Today, there are three ways to print a custom-made product, for example, an original smartphone case. The first is to purchase your own 3D-printer, which is expensive and may be difficult to use. The second option is to turn to a 3D printing studio. It is might entail a long process of coordination and processing of the order, as well as high production costs. The third way is to search for a private craftsman. However, you might have to spend some time on it. Moreover, there are no guarantees for the consumer that the quality will be satisfactory.

Cloudprints team project is expected to solve this problem. With the cloud aggregator, even inexperienced users will be able to upload their model, get it in a queue, and receive the product in a convenient way: by mail or by courier delivery.

The service is expected to benefit owners of 3D printers as well. According to Artem Ponomarenko, there are more than 23,000 3D printers in Russia and one of the most common problems of device owners is idle time: ‘People who are in the 3D printing business are enthusiasts, and are only too happy to print something for their friends. There are even printing societies in Russia today. I believe that many of them would be happy to receive commercial orders.’

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At present, the system is capable of working only with ready-made three-dimensional digital models. In the future, Cloudprints team plans to offer services in creating new projects based on clients' drawings and requests. The young entrepreneurs do not intend to be limited to only 3D printing. They are planning to provide services on laser and milling machines as part of the project development.

The project has no competitors in Russia yet. There are similar sites abroad, but they have some serious limitations. For example, they do not allow to aggregate the printers of third-party users. Many of them do not deliver in Russia. Besides, such companies charge quite a high commission for their services.

Artem Ponomarenko, Cloudprints team-leader, a second year student of Applied Mathematics and Informatics

Cloudprints will pay particular attention to the quality control system. If the customer does not like the result of the work, he can report it. After that, a commission of randomly selected project users will consider the issue on behalf of both customers and performers. If the complaint turns out to be justified, the server will refund the money to the client and possibly impose penalties on the contractor.

The Cloudprints team, headed by Artem Ponomarenko, includes other students of St Petersburg University: Nataliia Nikolaenko is in charge of business planning; Gleb Slepenkov specialises in distributed registries; Lev Tsatsorin is responsible for frontend development; and Ivan Balmaev is working on hardware.

In the finals of the ‘SPbU Start-up - 2020’, Cloudprints team will present a new service with basic functions. The participants will show the system in action – from loading the draft to receiving the finished product. However, whatever the verdict of the jury, the students are going to look for investors to implement the project.

‘This contest can be compared to a 3D printing process: participants come up with ideas that evolve into a viable project in the course of their work. Once we have reached the final, the team and I attend additional start-up school classes that cover important economic topics. We have an economist in our ranks, but I think everyone will benefit from extra knowledge. After all, these are the issues that will come to the fore when the project develops,’ said Artem Ponomarenko.