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Structo: A Start-Up in 3D Printing for the Dental Industry



Structo is a technology start-up conceived by Huub van Esbroeck and six other mechanical engineering undergraduates from National University Singapore (NUS) in 2014. The founding team at Structo had built a prototype of a 3D printer which could print four times faster than the 3D printers available in the market within the same price bracket.

After building their proof-of-concept machine, the team had approached 3D printing service bureaus to sell their product. They discovered that their printer had to be heavily customised to meet the diverse needs of various printing jobs performed by service bureaus. Structo was a small start-up with limited funding and resources, and hence building customised printers was a nonviable business model for the firm. The company had to either find a new target customer base or identify large funding partners to sustain its business. Coincidently, the Structo team received a phone call from a dental practitioner in Singapore and discovered that their printer could meet the needs of dental practitioners with virtually no customisation. The ‘Eureka’ moment provided a new burst of enthusiasm. However, Structo soon discovered that unlike its first customer, most dental practitioners approached dental labs for their 3D printing needs.

The Structo team pivoted their business model to suit the needs of dental labs, and the business took flight. By 2018, Structo’s business had grown significantly. The company had also forayed into 3D printing materials business and started building its material. However, the company’s medium-term goal and primary focus were to grow in the dental market.

Structo was gradually transitioning from start-up phase to a growth phase in its entrepreneurial journey. Van Esbroeck now wondered how Structo could scale its business rapidly. How could Structo prepare itself as an organisation for the next stage of growth?

This case looks into the sources of innovation in entrepreneurship and exemplifies how incongruity in an existing market can create avenues for new ventures to be successful. The case also helps students gain an understanding of the importance of customer validation process for technology entrepreneurship. Lastly, the case also helps students understand how customer validation and multiple pivots can be utilised to formulate a viable business model for growing a start-up enterprise.

Inspection copies and teaching notes are available for university faculty. To receive an inspection copy and teaching note, please email with your registered faculty email ID and a link to your contact information on the faculty directory at your university as verification. An inspection copy and teaching note will then be sent to your faculty email account.


SMU Faculty/Staff can download the case & teaching note on iNet with your SMU login ID & Password via the following links:

·      The Case (SMU-18-0025)

·      Teaching Note (SMU-18-0025TN)

For purchase of the case and supplementary materials via The Case Centre, please access the following links:

·      The Case (SMU-18-0025)

·      Teaching Note (SMU-18-0025TN)

For purchase of the case and supplementary materials via Harvard Business Publishing, please access the following links:

·      The Case (SMU-18-0025)

·      Teaching Note (SMU-18-0025TN)

Published Date

7 Jan 2019

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