Modeling a future through business

Whether it’s selling a Star Wars figurine to a stranger online or 3D printing an ocarina — a small and compact flute — sophomores Eric Djajdi and Philbert Loekman have explored a plethora of opportunities after starting their business, Walnut 3D Printing.

What was initially a close friendship developed into a business partnership between Djajadi and Loekman in November 2019. Inspired by his older brother, Loekman, along with Djajadi, print 3D computer-aided design models, such as boxes, figurines and tools. They cater to custom requests and also feature items customers can purchase on their website.

“3D modeling is definitely getting higher in demand because it’s becoming more useful, and people are seeing a different perspective of it. Instead of just making random stuff, it can help with household repairs. You can make an expensive product into a cheap plastic model that can serve the same purpose,” Loekman said.

The 3D modeling and designing procedures depend on the complexity of the customer’s request. Typically, less complex models can be sketched on Fusion 360 or AutoCAD Inventor, which are design softwares, while more elaborate designs use free digital models from Thingiverse.

“One of the most complicated models I remember designing was a half skeleton Star Wars Stormtrooper; it took me over a day to design,” Loekman said. “The reason it took forever to model was because the measurements were always slightly off, so it took a lot of revisions to make it work.”

After converting the final prototype into an STL file — the format for CAD software — Djajadi and Loekman translate it into g-code, a language 3D printers can understand. Before the model can be printed, modifications must be made to certain settings, such as its firmness or hollowness.

“3D printers can be finicky sometimes. The software is really diverse, and there’s so many functions that it’s hard to find everything at times. There’s a lot of different ways you can take to make something,” Djajadi said.

Loekman and Djajadi have also created their website and business email addresses. Their website, walnut3dprinting.com, showcases timelapses, photos and informational pages about the business.

“A website is the lobby to a business,” Loekman said. “When you go on our website, you can look at what we do, where we’re located [and] who we are. It’s the first impression to a customer, and it’s the key to a successful relationship with the customer.”

Since they charge cents per gram, each print varies from $3 to $30. To achieve professionalism and efficiency, Djajadi and Loekman track orders through an invoice order form system which describes the product that is requested.

“I like that instead of just in-person orders, now we can do it digitally; it’s more formal communication,” Djajadi said. “We want to build a relationship with our customers. We want them to be satisfied, so they’re going to be more likely to order from us again.”

Aside from their personal network, Djajadi and Loekman have advertised by distributing business cards at school. Although the partners occasionally face challenges with broadening their customer base, it gives them incentive to improve.

“We have to keep a positive mindset so we don’t burnout. If there are any challenges, we try to overcome them by growing the business and advertising more over social media,” Djajadi said.

Djajadi and Loekman plan to expand beyond the local area in the foreseeable future and allocate profits to fund a new entry-level 3D printer for the business. The two are currently working toward implementing laser engravers in their 3D printers.

“It’s really rewarding whenever I receive orders and deliver them a physical object that we made. Every hour I put into this business, I learn something new, whether it’s developing new skills in modeling or new methods for running our business efficiently,” Loekman said. “We’ve learned the very basics of running a business and, overall, it’s been an extremely fulfilling experience.”

By Emily Cao, Staff writer
Photo by Andrew Kim