Technological craftsmen are people who combine their creative, artistic and business skills with the technological capabilities inspired by Silicon Valley. Alessio Lorusso, founder of the Bari-based startup Roboze, embodies this modern artisan.
Alessio grew up working in the family’s machine shop in Southern Italy, he graduated in Computer Programming and, despite his parents’ insistence for him to choose a safe career in accounting, he had a bigger dream. After leaving the family business he founded Roboze, to develop 3D printing solutions. 3D Printing is a process for making three-dimensional objects from digital files.
Last year, according to the Wohlers Associates report, the industry grew by 25.9% (about $ 1 billion), reaching $ 5.1 billion. Estimates from the Consumer Technology Association and UPS show that the electronics and the automotive industries will account for 40% of the growth in this sector, followed by medical devices with 15%. Currently, for example, 98% of hearing aids all over the world are made using this method.
Fascinated by the evolution of traditional craftsmanship into its modern “tech” version, I ask Alessio to tell us about his entrepreneurial journey.
When did you become interested in 3D Printing?
“I could not bear the idea of being in front of a computer everyday looking at balance sheets. I was attracted to mechanics, physics, electronics, and technology. At 17, I had my “first encounter” with a 3D printer and I was struck. I had found something that united in one product all my greatest passions and made me think of the incredible role that this technology would play in the near future. I wanted to learn more. However, I couldn’t find any 3D printer that satisfied me. I felt they lacked quality components, had low resolutions, were devoid of design. So I designed my own 3D printing solution, one that could solve all these recognized limitations. I called it Roboze One.”
“Roboze is not just one invention, it’s a project. We rank among the 21 most innovative companies in Italy according to the Pininfarina Innovation Award known as Premio Imprese X Innovazione.
“Our now internationally famous, patented Beltless System for the mechanical axis inside the printer, is just the first of a long series of patents that we are planning to introduce onto the market. Before our invention, all 3D printers used a moving belt, which is made of rubber and it cannot guarantee precision and consistency. To improve this issue we replaced the belts with the system used in CNC machines. So now we have a pair of helical racks in direct contact with the pinion, which solved the above-mentioned issues economically.”
Is this what sets your 3D printer apart from the rest?
“To date, there are essentially two aspects related to 3D printing solutions. On the one hand, there are the Consumer printers who sacrifice the quality of printed objects to be affordable for individuals and enthusiasts. On the other hand, there are professional and industrial printers which offer superior quality but at exorbitant prices, limiting their use to large companies and multinational players.
“Roboze, thanks to its Beltless System can ensure mechanical precision and consistency of printed pieces at affordable prices, allowing SME’s and professionals the opportunity to do 3D Printing at a quality level similar to the one of large corporations.
“Now we are focusing on disrupting the materials used for 3D printing. Our goal is to offer maximum flexibility in the choice of polymers necessary to create functional prototypes and small series, with the mechanical, thermal and chemical properties of the finished products. We have introduced advanced materials such as PEEK and PEI, used in metal replacement applications; or Carbon PA, which is nylon reinforced with carbon fiber. Or ABS ESD which is for applications that require electrostatic discharge protection.”
How di you finance your startup?
“Funding to launch this brand has been 100% private. I saved some money while I was working for the family business. I did not get any funding from public institutions. Everything I created is the result of my conviction and determination. Even today I still encounter many obstacles: culturally many people believe that I shouldn’t have left the family business to become an entrepreneur; economically it’s been hard to find the necessary resources; and then, there are the overbearing effects of the gigantic Italian bureaucracy with its unbelievable amounts of paperwork.
“However, if there is even a slight chance that in the end I can do what I love and I can make things happen, I feel that all obstacles can be overcome. I am always of the opinion that you have to wake up in the morning and feel like you cannot wait to get to work. Passion must be what stimulates you. Not money. Not a safe, yet boring, job. If there is passion you will not feel tired even after working 14 or 16 hours.”
Will you bring Roboze to the US?
“Right now we have customers in Italy and strategic partnerships in all the main European countries. Just a few days ago, we forged a partnership outside of EMEA with a highly experienced Indian dealer. Next, we are planning to come to the United States. The reason is that our solutions can meet the expectations and requirements of customers from all over the world.”
After interviewing Alessio, I am more convinced than ever that the entrepreneurial spirit knows no barriers. However, if Italy did a better job in nurturing its entrepreneurs, the national economy would benefit greatly.