3D Hubs: a growing business with big ambitions

As mission statements go, “changing the world” is a pretty ambitious one. But though they might be modest about it, that’s exactly what the team at 3D Hubs want to do. Or, at least, change the way products are manufactured – creating new possibilities for creators across the globe and enabling consumer products to be made on­ demand and close to their point of purchase. This in turn will significantly reduce the waste created from overproduction and shipping products from one side of the world to the other.

launched in 2013 by Bram de Zwart and Brian Garret, the company’s 50-strong team has helped produce more than one million parts for its customer through its online platform, and the firm now operates in more than 140 countries. Sitting down with I amsterdam in 3D Hubs’ office on Frederiksplein, Bram explains how being based in Amsterdam has been instrumental in fuelling that success.

How Amsterdam helps attract top talent

“Being based in Amsterdam, it’s very easy for us to attract top talent from abroad, as people love the idea of living in Amsterdam,” he explains. “We operate in quite a specialised industry, so more than half of our workforce are foreign, but attracting them to Amsterdam has never been never a problem for us. “In fact,” he adds, “we have never approached someone from abroad who didn’t want to come and live and work in Amsterdam, so in that respect it’s probably the best city in Europe.”

It’s not just Amsterdam’s thriving tech and startup scene that helps 3D Hubs when they approach international talent, but also the city’s renowned reputation for a healthy work-life balance. “People understand that there’s a very good quality of life here,” de Zwart adds. “It isn’t extremely busy, and there’s lots of space and parks. It also has a great culture and lifestyle – you can visit world-famous museums and theatres, eat good food, and there really is so much happening here. It has all the benefits of a major international capital, but you can get around by bike and be somewhere new in just 10 minutes.”

Bram de Zwart

A thriving business scene for investors

Since 2013, 3D Hubs has secured funding from investors from Spotify, Uber and Booking.com, and in total it has raised more than $12.5 million in investments to date. de Zwart says that Amsterdam’s thriving tech and startup scenes are putting the city at the forefront of investors' minds when they’re looking for new opportunities. “Amsterdam definitely has advantage over many other cities when it comes to finding investors or attracting top talent,” de Zwart says. “A lot of the top venture capitalists in Europe are looking at Amsterdam and often visit the city.” Collaboration and sharing knowledge is also key to the tech and startup scene’s myriad successes. “There’s a lot of tech, startup and business events in Amsterdam where you get the chance to meet other startup founders, which is wonderful,” de Zwart says. “Being able to share best practice and experiences at those events is really valuable.”

With several Fortune 100 companies and some of the world’s biggest brands using 3D Hubs to manufacture parts across the automotive, aerospace and healthcare industries, the company has established itself as the leading manufacturing network for 3D printing. But behind it all is an ethos that envisages a world where products aren’t manufactured in Asia and shipped around the world. Instead it’s helping create a new model, in which machines would produce designs tailored to your needs just a few miles from your home. “We started as a peer-to-peer printing marketplace,” de Zwart explains. “But now we’re transitioning into a full-blown turnkey manufacturing platform. We find it surprising that most manufacturing happens in Asia, while many products are actually consumed on the other side of the planet, so it makes sense to bring it back to the countries where the products are actually consumed. That’s what we’re pioneering globally.” And de Zwart says that a commitment to helping make the world a better place is something businesses in Amsterdam are always conscious of. “I couldn’t see myself working for a company that wouldn’t try to make the world a little bit better,” he says. “Developing something that makes things run more efficiently or run better. That’s exciting for me.”