Making it Work: Kerry 3D print firm targets German and Nordic markets for expansion

Wazp works on a model of ‘decentralisation, digitalisation and demand drivers’, building the product on site for customers if requested

Shane Hassett and Mariana Kobal, co-founders of Wazp: ‘Our model is built around decentralisation, digitalisation and demand drivers.’ Picture: Domnick Walsh

Wazp, the 3D printing business based in Tralee in Co Kerry, has plans to grow internationally in the coming months by expanding into the German and Nordic markets. The firm, which was set up in 2015 by Shane Hassett and Mariana Kobal, currently has 18 staff.

The business provides direct-to-business and consumer design and development services using a process known as additive manufacturing, which builds the product one layer at a time. The nature of its manufacturing means it can either ship the product directly to the end customer or print it on site for the customer, should they have access to a 3D printer.

“In 99 per cent of the cases, we do the design work from scratch,” Hassett told the Business Post. “Once a file is developed and the customer is happy with the shape and form, having seen the prototypes, then we go into the implementation phase, right down to the type of printer involved.

“Our model is built around decentralisation, digitalisation and demand drivers. Decentralisation means we build it as close as possible to the customer’s place and time of need.”

The digitalisation aspect involves Wazp keeping the files in their digital format, allowing it to create libraries that enable the designs to be reproduced or changed at any time.

“The demand driver aspect means we create a 1:1 supply-to-demand ratio. That means we don’t have overproduction with parts sitting in stock hoping they get sold. It also means we don’t underproduce, as underproduction means lost opportunity,” Hassett said.

“We use powdered plastics like nylon at the moment. We’re also looking at more sustainable polymers from natural sources. Every product that we produce is sliced into thousands of layers with a laser to create the finished product.”

The process is visually arresting: as powders are merged together to form the finished piece, such as an artistic model of a hand the business created for Ikea. The loose powder gathers in a form of cube around the end design when emerging from the printer. A light tap, and it falls away to reveal the finished piece.

Hassett and Kobal, who is from Ukraine, first met while working together on a business in Poland. They developed the basic idea for Wazp while there, but Hassett found the combination of support and skills in Ireland were more suited to growing the business.

“I was on a one-week holiday back home and someone suggested to me to talk to Enterprise Ireland. Within two weeks we were accepted to the New Frontiers programme in Tralee and we haven’t looked back since. We’re in the high potential start-up unit, although we’re nearly at the end of that programme,” he said.

The project with Ikea began in 2017, delivering the hand model to 50 per cent of its stores worldwide. Since then, the business has become more focused on direct-to-consumer sales, with a site in Germany to enable shipping directly to customers there. The project is currently being expanded to the Nordics to enable more direct to consumer sales in those markets.

“The world is realising that there need to be more agile supply chains that are less susceptible to disruption. That’s what we’ve been building,” Hassett said.