Hulotech: 'Keep thinking in possibilities and persevere'

For Hulotech in Stadskanaal, January is standard a difficult month, although the market always picks up after that. Unfortunately, this time things are different because of all the measures surrounding Covid-19. Yet the specialist in 3D printing & engineering also sees opportunities in these uncertain times. 'With our expertise in additive manufacturing, we can realize new products that contribute to better hygiene and care,' says technical director Richt Loorbach.

If there is one thing the founders of Hulotech have learned over the past six years, it is that unforeseen events are part of running your own business. 'We don't let that get us down so easily; we'll figure something out,' says Richt Loorbach. He and his partner Arjan Huiting were always full of ideas. The men were colleagues at a production company and wanted more with all the possibilities they saw. Therefore, the duo started for themselves. And then you have to make miles," is Richt's experience. Running into all kinds of things and discovering that obstacles are part of it. Keep thinking in terms of possibilities and persevere. That's what entrepreneurship is about, even in this corona crisis.'

Looking for the edge

Thanks to this go-getter mentality, Hulotech has grown in recent years into a small but highly inventive and agile SME. A third partner - with a background in business administration - joined the company and two engineers are now employed, almost always reinforced by an intern. At the heart of the company is a new type of 3D printer that allows engineers who understand their trade to do much more than just print. 'What we do is called additive manufacturing,' Richt explains. 'That's halfway between 3D printing and injection molding. Because of our technical knowledge and experience, we always seek the edge of what is possible with the machines. This way we create feasible and affordable products that are technically better or offer something that would otherwise be difficult to make.'

Sparring from content

The medical sector and industrial machine builders are Hulotech's biggest customers. 'We make orthopedic prostheses in all kinds of variations and so do metal or plastic machine parts,' says Richt. He is a technician at heart, but discovered through Hulotech that he is also strong in customer contact and commercial opportunities. 'Sparring with clients is wonderful to me. From the content you can really start a conversation. I see the needs of clients, but also what else we can do. Openings to innovation. We are all about adding value. Making products that you can't make otherwise, because it's not technically possible, or too expensive, or logistically too difficult. We look at the whole process.'

Plastic door handle

Coming up with creative solutions and going the extra mile technically is ingrained in the genes of the Groningen company. That is why Hulotech recently developed its own variant of the released design of a special door handle. Richt: 'To prevent the spread of viruses, you want to grip door handles as little as possible. A Belgian company had come up with a way to open the door via the arm and released that design for use, given the importance of this product in this corona crisis. Inspired by that design, we made our own version. Made of plastic, so there is even less risk of virus spread. This special door handle is well received and we have already turned the first series of orders.'

Innovative strength

Fuelled by the corona crisis, Hulotech wants to do more to harness its innovative power. 'We also look for solutions ourselves that contribute to better hygiene, but we also focus on supporting healthcare. Think, for example, of printing parts for special breathing masks, so that there is enough material for patients. We can introduce innovative products ourselves, but with our expertise in additive manufacturing we can also support other manufacturers with new product launches,' says Richt. 'That is the great advantage of sourcing locally in 3D printing: if a good idea pops up, we can actually make the part or product with our expertise and machines.'

Practical solutions

In short, business owners are not sitting back. They are working hard on inventive ideas so that the company can limit the loss of sales. 'We are still running some standard production now, but especially our healthcare customers have other priorities now. Also, our innovative projects are dropping a bit. Like the outsole we developed with collaboration partner UMCG for special foot care. And the research into oral prostheses for dental care. Projects that we can do partly thanks to NOM and that are important for our future. But right now the corona crisis requires all our attention and creativity. We can be significant in this with additive manufacturing and are doing everything we can to come up with practical solutions for hygiene and care ourselves or together with other manufacturers.'

Learn more