Getting to know: colorFabb

Not just a filament producer: Filaments.directory talks to Sander Strijbos, Sales Manager, to find out what goes on at colorFabb HQ!

You don't have to be a 3D printing expert to be impressed by colorFabb's state-of-the-art headquarters in Belfeld, The Netherlands. Powered by 480 solar panels and climate controlled by geo-thermal wells, the carbon offset facility houses not only colorFabb's 6 busy production lines, offices and warehouse but also Blackbelt 3D, a Stacker 3D distribution centre and Helian Polymers.

It's no coincidence that colorFabb shares it's facilities with these other brands. From our conversation with Sander it was clear that colorFabb is working hard to be more than just a supplier of 3D printing filaments. Instead, they are intent on being the middle-man of 3D printing - a one-stop shop that will provide everything from filaments to printers (through their synergy with brands like Blackbelt 3D and Stacker 3D). However we were also happy to learn that this extends beyond filaments and printers, colorFabb also offers a range of services like consultancy, online support, 3D modelling and on-site printer installation! Add their new Color on Demand service (an idea that colorFabb has had for 6 years) to this list and it's clear that colorFabb is not just a filament producer.

"colorFabb started six years ago as a brand of Helian Polymers. Over the years we have grown and colorFabb became its own entity in September 2015. We not only saw the need to grow in terms of our portfolio, which has been steadily growing to meet a lot of needs, but also in terms of hardware (Stacker, for instance), service and in an advisory role. With local companies, for instance, their need is to have one supplier who can provide them in all 3D printing needs: hardware, materials and support. Their needs, in terms of materials, can vary widely and it is important for us that we can meet a lot of this need."

"Diversification is always a plus for a company, we think. Since we see ourselves as a partner more than as a supplier, we need to be able to offer ever more materials, printing knowledge, hardware, support, etc. – all of them available under one roof."

More services surrounding 3D printing is something that we hope to see more of in the near future, both being offered by brands and utilised by home, professional and industrial users alike! It may be an excellent way to increase both the effectiveness and accessibility of 3D printing.

colorFabb Quick Facts.

A quick breakdown of the most important things we learnt about colorFabb.

Origin: When Ruud Rouleaux, founder of colorFabb, bought his first 3D printer in 2011, he spoke to Ultimaker and found out they primarily used PLA. Ruud, an expert in bioplastics, wondered if adding PHA to PLA might improve its properties, and thus the colorFabb journey was started!

The name: colorFabb is derived from the words Color and Fabrication - evidence for how much planning has gone into Color on Demand!

Timeline:

  • 2012: Pilot production line created.
  • 2013: First product introduced to the market.
  • 2014: colorFabb moves to Blue Innovation Centre, NL.
  • 2015: Production now reaches 6 production lines!
  • 2017: colorFabb moves to new production centre in Belfeld, NL.
  • 2018: colorFabb releases Color on Demand service. Begins work on 7th production line.

Core Values:

Quality: From continuous development of the quality control process to developing masterbatches of every grade of filament to ensure colour consistency, colorFabb seems fixated on quality.

Service: It was great to learn about all the services that colorFabb is active in, on top of producing as many filaments as they do!

Spotted in the Factory:

A 2.3 metre tall, 1/60th scale 3D printed Saturn V Rocket, printed with nGEN by Korneel Bullens.

The Future:

Providing more for both home and professional users with services like Color on Demand, as well as increasing the use of 3D printing in industry with industrial grade filaments. The 7th production line currently under-construction will be focused on more industrial materials.

Don't take our word for it

We asked Sander a few questions so that you could hear it directly from colorFabb!

F.D: What are the core values of colorFabb?

CF:

"To deliver quality and meet the specific needs of our customers. In the past six years we have seen the customer becoming more critical about materials – and rightfully so. We see ourselves not only as a supplier, but as a partner to deliver high quality filaments as well as sharing our knowledge in regards to implementing 3D printing with our customers. Be it as a filament producer, distributor of hardware like the Stacker, our co-operation with Blackbelt 3D, the knowledge of the plastics industry and bio-plastics at Helian Polymers or combining all this knowledge to serve in an advisory role."

F.D: What have been your greatest achievements as a company so far?

CF:

"What started with an idea from our founder and CEO, Ruud Rouleaux, has developed in an organic way to a brand that has been mentioned as one of the world’s favourite brand (Filaments.directory’s 2018 survey). The journey has come to a full circle this summer when launching our brand new service Color on Demand – which was in essence the very first idea Ruud had when starting to toy with the idea of producing filaments. The greatest achievement is the continuous high customer satisfaction and constant enthusiasm of the team to bring the best possible filaments to the market."

F.D: What do you think the next steps are for the 3D printing industry?

CF:

"A more professional use of 3D printers with more focus on the materials. We are seeing the shift from the hobby and maker community towards the use of 3D printers in companies, small and large. Customers are not satisfied with off-the-shelf solutions and will require custom made materials, which are to be printed on ever easier to use 3D printers. In our print lab we test all our filaments continuously on several dozens of machines ensuring the user experience is as flawless as possible."

F.D: What can people look forward to from colorFabb in the future?

CF:

"Of course we keep developing materials, but we will also increase the contact we have with our customers, old and new. It is of paramount importance that we understand the increasing needs of our customers and to act on this. We also will announce more strategic partnerships to ensure users are able to print with the best possible materials for their application(s)."