Interview: Hitch3DPrint founder Alex Liu on becoming the 'Uber' of metal 3D printing

Apr 11, 2018 | By Benedict

Singapore-based Hitch3DPrint is a company going places. With a business model that promises massively reduced metal 3D printing costs, distributed manufacturing, and even environmental efficiency, this organized network of “hitchers” and “vehicles” offers a totally new way of approaching metal 3D printing. We spoke to Hitch3DPrint founder Alex Liu on how his company works, what its customers can expect, and how the service could become the Uber of metal additive manufacturing.

3Ders: Hitch3DPrint is a newcomer to the 3D printing scene. Could you give us a quick overview of what your service is all about?

Alex Liu: Hitch3DPrint is a platform that provides individuals and companies with easy access to the high-tech precision 3D metal printing via a novel concept where users are able to “hitch” any of the metal printers located globally in the same way one would hitch a car ride.

The beauty of the hitch concept lies in the lower cost of printing and still achieving quality and lead time requirements. Our database includes more than 1,000 metal printers worldwide featuring both laser and electron capabilities along with a wide range of materials and alloy variants. Production-grade quality at hitch price.

3Ders: How did you come up with the idea for a 3D print hitching service? Had you worked in the additive manufacturing industry before?

Alex Liu: I am a firm believer of efficiency and optimization. My seats are almost always empty when I drive to work daily. In Singapore, we hitch people for a small remuneration and that was when I started hitching people to work. I started with one passenger and began to maximize my spare capacity by hitching more passengers per trip. That was when I realized the total remuneration turns out to be more than what a regular taxi driver would normally earn.

I then derived this hitch concept and applied it to metal 3D printing. I have worked on metal powder bed fusion (PBF) since 2007 in both research and in the industry. From my experience, similar to a car, the print tray always has spare capacity. The cost to start a print job is high due to the setup cost involved (Argon gas, labour, etc). Furthermore, different orders come in at different times of the week and in different materials. It is impossible to consolidate the orders to maximize and utilize the print tray.

With all cost components of metal printing remaining the same, the hitch platform is able to offer a lower cost of metal printing since no set up cost is involved. In parallel, the service providers can stack multiple hitch requests in the same material onto their existing print tray to maximize their revenue. This is the beauty of the hitch concept being applied to metal printing. Users save more money. Service providers make more money. Resources are distributed.

3Ders: Who is Hitch3DPrint aimed at, and why might a customer want to hitch a metal 3D print rather than go through a traditional 3D printing service bureau?

Alex Liu: Hitch3DPrint aims to target businesses (and individuals) doing R&D, prototyping, product development as well as small batch production (high mix, low volume) where metal 3D printing is ideal. These customers will prefer to hitch a metal 3D print because of the following advantages:

  • Low cost (30 to 50% lower) and instant hitch quotation;
  • Short lead time since it is hitching onto a print job that is ready to print;
  • Access to high-end metal 3D printers located globally and which are able to provide high quality.

3Ders: How can a Hitch3DPrint customer know what kind of quality to expect from their print? Is the designated 3D printer, the “vehicle” for their hitch, discussed in advance?

Alex Liu: Parts produced by metal printers in the market have better or similar tensile properties as compared to those manufactured via traditional methods such as investment casting. PBF produce parts that have at least 99% density compared to their native density. Besides, the materials used are established alloys widely accepted in the industry. In addition, our partners demonstrate metal printing capabilities and follow published standards regardless of the printer model:

  • ISO/ASTM DIS 52901:2017 (Additive Manufacturing – General Principles – Requirements for Purchased AM Parts)
  • ISO/ASTM 52900:2015 (Additive Manufacturing – General Principles – Terminology)

3Ders: You state that Hitch3DPrint customers can enjoy free delivery on their items. Who takes care of shipment? You or the 3D printer owner?

Alex Liu: The 3D printer owners will take care of the shipment as they are shipped closer to the customers and would make sense if they do the shipping rather than have it shipped to Singapore before shipping abroad. With that, I would like to point out that we also work on an open model where the customers will know the company providing the printing service.

3Ders: Your platform currently accommodates both laser melting and electron beam melting processes, as well as several materials including titanium, aluminum, and steel. Are we likely to see more processes or materials in the future?

Alex Liu: Yes, as metal 3D printing is constantly being researched, new materials from the powder manufacturers are always being developed. We would be adding them onto the platform whenever there is a demand for them. We even are considering offering the [Airbus APWorks-made] Aluminum alloy Scalmalloy® to customers as the demand for this alloy starts to build up.

3Ders: Hitch3DPrint was established in Singapore, but your global network of partners spans the entire planet. At present, where is the best place for “hitching” a 3D print? Are there any regions where you’re trying particularly hard to expand your partner network? 

Alex Liu: Every place is a good place because we are global. We have requests from countries such as the U.S. and Israel and we have partners from the U.S. and France already taking up hitch requests. Depending on demand and funding, we are planning to open offices in the U.S. and E.U. (Belgium). If there are investors who are interested, please touch base with us!

3Ders: Can any owner of metal 3D printing equipment sign up to be part of the Hitch3DPrint partner network? What are the requirements?

Alex Liu: Yes, of course! As long as they own metal PBF machines, we would be more than willing to have them in our network. The companies that we engaged with must demonstrate that they adhere to the Additive Manufacturing standards of ISO/ASTM DIS 52901:2017 and ISO/ASTM 52900:2015.

3Ders: Hitch3DPrint customers will soon be able to “Book a Print” as well as “Hitch a Print.” Could you explain what the difference is between these two services?

Alex Liu: We will be starting a trial with Book a Print very soon. We are currently working with a U.S. company (beta user) on fulfilling their “Book a Print” request. The general difference is that Book a Print would encompass more flexibility in choices such as the preferred printer model, customized parameters, preferred print orientation and the ability to have more types of post-processing whenever they require. However, the pricing will be more expensive because the print tray will be fully dedicated to this request.

3Ders: Many people would be apprehensive about hitching a ride in a stranger’s car, and some people would also worry about 3D printing on a stranger’s 3D printer—especially for an important work project! What would you say to calm the fears of those people?

Alex Liu: The same can be said for getting an Uber ride. People are now comfortable with Uber rides because the situation has developed to a stage where there is traceability and accountability within a secured environment.

There is traceability and accountability within Hitch3DPrint too. The customer’s file can only be downloaded by the partner who decides to take up the hitch request. The customer in turn knows the company that has downloaded the files. We do screen our partners before having them on the platform and sign a comprehensive non-disclosure agreement with them (as well as the customer). We have quality checks by having parts printed by the partners and because we are strong advocates for digital confidence, we also ensure that partners have to adhere to our confidentiality policies as well.

3Ders: What do you think the metal 3D printing world will look like in 10 years?

Alex Liu: We believe that metal 3D printing will soon be a staple in most industries…since the prices offered by Hitch3DPrint are so attractive! Who wouldn’t like strong and light structures with no compromise?

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

Maybe you also like:

Tronxy X5S Upgrade DIY Desktop 3D Printer Kit Large Printing Size 300x300x400mm with Metal Frame Structure, Dual Z Axis, Surpport 1.75mm PLA,ABS,HIPS,WOOD,PC,PV

1.Plug:US Plug
5.Package Size:585*377*185mm
6.Structure:Aluminium Profile
7.Print Size 330*330*400mm(Max)
8.Layer thickness:0.1-0.4mm
9.LCD Screen:12864P LCD big screen
10.XY axle positioniong accuracy :0.012mm
11.Z axle positioning accuracy:0.004mm
12.Nozzle diameter:0.4mm(Default)
13.Nozzle temperature:170-275℃
14.Heatbed temperature:0-110℃
15.Material Diameter:1.75mm
16.Print Speed:20 – 150 mm/s
17.Power Supply:110V/220V 30A
18.File Format printing:STL,G-code
19.Operating System:for XP,forWIN7,forMAC
20.Host Computer Software Repetier:for Host,Cura
21.Environmental Requirement:-5-40℃ Humidity: 20-80%
22.Printing Support:secure digital memory /USB
23.Printing material:PLA, ABS, HIPS,WOOD,PC,PVC and more
24.Connectivity (Interface):USB, LCD display and secure digital memory card reader

Package List:
1X Printer
12X 2020 aluminum profiles
1X Z Axle ColumnX2 Root
1X LCD Display Cable
1X Indices
1X Acrylic Fixed Foot
1X Six Angle Tool
1X Power Supply
1X A Main Board
1X Limit Switch Set
1X Squeeze Out One’S Head
1X X Axle Left Frame
1X Power Box Bottom (Acrylic)
1X Motor Line
9X Polished Rod
1X Display Panel (Acrylic)
1X Axle Right Frame
1X Card Reader Memory Card
1X Cross Screwdriver
1X Screwdriver
1X USB Line
1X Z Shaft Motor
1X Z Upper Panel
1X Y Shaft Motor
1X Pack Of Screws
1X Print Accessories Pack

Product Features

  • ✔️ LARGE printing size: 330*330*400mm/ 9.9″x9.9″x12″. Great after-service and 100% money-back warranty.
  • ✔️A sturdy aluminium metal frame that is substantially more stable than other’s Acrylic frame.
  • ✔️ Easy to operate with rotary knob. Support online/offline printing, Printing speed:20 – 150 mm/s.
  • ✔️ Industrial grade chain makes your 3d works greater than others’ with more perfect alignment.
  • ✔️ High performance and high precision with 360W high power supply, Z axle twin screw rod, decorative strip, exquisite workmanship design.

Click Here If You Need More Detailed Info…

WINGONEER 3D Printer MK8 Remote Extruder Accessories 1.75 Filament All Metal Remote Extruder For MK8 Prusa i3 or Kossel RepRap DIY Kits Aluminum Frame Block Accessory (Right hand)

WINGONEER 3D Printer MK8 Remote Extruder Accessories 1.75 Filament All Metal Remote Extruder For MK8 Prusa i3 or Kossel RepRap DIY Kits Aluminum Frame Block Accessory (Right hand)

1. MK8 remote printer head right hand (not included steppter motor )
2.This is improved version, there are 2pcs Pneumatic fittings so that it feeds more fluently.
3.3D Printer MK8 Bowden Extruder kit v
4.Used for 1.75mm/3mm filament, Reprap, Makerbot
5.Type: Right hand

Material:Full Metal Aluminum Alloy
Color: As shown

Package Including
1 x MK8 extruder DIY kits (Right hand version)

Product Features

  • Used for 1.75mm filament, Reprap, Makerbot ,Prusa 3D Printer
  • Equipped with two pneumatic fittings, the feed process more smoothly.
  • Type: Right hand
  • 3D Printer MK8 Bowden Extruder kit
  • Equipped with two pneumatic fittings, the feed process more smoothly, you can make your extruder closer to the print head (reducing brushed remote feeding problems arising from this can to some extent), while the supplies can be placed in a more appropriate position, and not worry about other issues stuck supplies)

Visit The Website For More Information…

Get a discount as Endurance Lasers put metal engraving to the test

Endurance Lasers gives makers the ability to upgrade 3D printers, CNC routers and other DIY machines with multi tool functionality. By installing a laser diode, these machines become cutting tools and engravers, capable of writing on acrylic, wood, leather and metal, maximizing workshop productivity.

Read on for an exclusive discount.

The 8.5W+ laser, exclusively available to order from the company’s website, is the second most powerful diode in Endurance Laser’s arsenal. Providing “infinite continuous power,” the 8.5W is capable of writing on all manner of surfaces, from stone and wood to leather and sheet metal.

In a series of Endurance experiments, we see how the 8.5W+ makes short work of matte & hard steel, and glossy & composite aluminum.

Optimal focus

For the purpose of these experiments, the 8.5W+ laser was installed on an Endurance DIY engraving/cutting machine. As with all of Endurance’s lasers, the 8.5W+ can be easily installed on a number of desktop 3D printers.

As a preliminary test, Endurance determined the optimum focal range for its G2 focal lens.

A 5 mm length piece of wood was selected as a test. At a speed of 10 mm/s the laser and lens are capable of cutting a 5 mm length in one single pass with minimal charring. It is worth noting that some engraving projects require a multiple pass of the laser. All metal experiments by the 8.5W+ below were accomplished in a single pass.

6 mm, then, is determined as the best focal range for G2 short focal lens. Verified by a simple sight test (through red or green goggles), optimum focal range is when a spot is at its minimum diameter, and achieves maximum light intensity.

Putting metal to the test

In the first experiment after the preliminary test, a rectangular plate of plain matte steel is engraved with the Endurance Laser logo. The cleanest and best result for writing the logo was a speed of 1.5 – 2.5 mm/s. At 55 mm long and 5 mm wide, the logo took 3 – 5 minutes to engrave, and was made in a single pass of the laser.

In the second experiment, the team moved to samples of anodized aluminum with both matte and shiny surfaces. The Endurance logo and a serial number were tested in this run. At a speed of 50 – 10 mm/s, a single pass of the laser takes 20-30 seconds to draw the logo.

Experiment three – the 8.5W+ laser takes two minutes (at 100 speed) to replicate the Endurance logo in a single pass on a hardened aluminum composite alloy.

And in the final trial, the laser successfully made etchings on the surface of a hard grade steel component in 20-30 seconds at a speed of 5 -10 mm/s.

Ready for an upgrade?

For any makers that want to pack an even bigger punch with their laser engraving and cutting capabilities, Endurance has a 10W laser capable of engraving stainless steel, copper and brass in a single pass.

The Endurance 8.5W+ laser is available as an upgrade for 3D printers and CNC routers for $695. It has a total lifetime of 10,000 hours, and continuous operation time of 48-72 hours.

The stronger Endurance 10W laser retails at $795. For a limited time, 3D Printing Industry readers can get 25% off Endurance’s  8W, 8.5W+ and 10W using coupon code: “3Dprintingindustry 25% discount” at checkout.

If you have any questions about Endurance Lasers then Live chat is available their web site. The CEO and founder of Endurance George I Fomitchev will be happy to answer your questions.

Telegram bot: @Endurancelasers_bot

Telegram group:

Telegram channel:

Discover more of the Endurance Lasers range and buy now here.

QIDI TECHNOLOGY 3D Printer, New Model: X-smart, Fully Metal Structure, 3.5 Inch Touchscreen

Product Description:
QIDI TECH 3D Printer X-smart Loaded with easy-to-use features, and designed to be at home in kids rooms and classrooms, the new QIDI TECH X-smart is the good choice for 3D printing novices and educators.

QIDI TECHNOLOGY 3D Printer X smart
1 roll of 1kg PLA filament,color randomly selected.
Power cable
USB Pen Drive
Tool box
Filament guide tube

Printing Technology:FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)
Build Plate: 170 L X 150 W
Layer Resolution: 100~500 microns
Positioning Precision: 11 microns on X and Y and 2.5 microns on Z
Filament Diameter: 1.75 mm
Nozzle Diameter: 0.4 mm

Frame & Body: Metal
Extruder Quantity: ONE
Product Weight: 22 Software: QIDI TECH Software
Operating Systems: Windows 7/ 8 / 10 , Mac OS X
Printing via USB Pen drive
Voltage: 115V ~ 230 V
Power:100 W

Product Features

  • Single extruder with extra cooling fan
  • 3.5-inch full color touchscreen with intuitive icons makes for easy operation
  • Full metal support more stable than plastic support
  • Aviation aluminum, CNC machining aluminum alloy

Click Here For More Information