Korneel Bullens began using UltiMaker in 2013, when the company released its first desktop 3D printer, the Ultimaker 2. What started out as a personal fascination soon evolved into a business, thanks to collaborations with UltiMaker and Protolabs Network by Hubs (formerly 3D Hubs). This venture became a testament not only to the reliability of UltiMaker 3D printers, but also to the viability of 3D printing as a lucrative business.
Operating approximately 30 UltiMaker 3D printers from the S series, Korneel attests to their consistent performance and minimal technical demands. This reliability translates into a valuable commodity: time. By choosing UltiMaker, Korneel can focus on strategic aspects of his business and not the mundane tasks of printer maintenance.
“Each hour I need to spend on a printer is an expensive hour. If I have a printer that just works and keeps on working, it gives me so much flexibility with my time,” he notes. “There are printers that have been printing for five years straight on—and they just work.”
Korneel’s army of UltiMaker 3D printers run on a 24/7 schedule, with his 12 S5 models running nearly nonstop for years. The recent additions of the UltiMaker S7 3D printers reflect the resilience and reliability of UltiMaker printers.
“The main reason why I went with UltiMaker and why I’ll be sticking with UltiMaker is that we’re reaching 99.5% reliability. If I press print, there’s almost no chance of it not succeeding. I haven’t been able to match that with other brands,” Korneel continued.
“Our goal is to run at 90/90—90% of the printers 90% of the time. There are better and worse months. But overall, we hit above that,” said Korneel. He leverages UltiMaker's reliability to achieve impressive operational efficiency, positioning his business for scalability without drowning in printer maintenance.
To efficiently manage his bustling print farm, Korneel relies on UltiMaker’s Digital Factory. The platform streamlines his 3D printing operations, providing insights into each printer—status updates on print jobs, materials, history, and more. Legal compliance, particularly European data regulations, like GDPR, is also a significant consideration, and Digital Factory and UltiMaker provide the necessary assurances.
Environmental sustainability is another major focal point for Korneel. He has a 69 kilowatt solar panel system on his rooftop. His business operates entirely on solar power and uses recyclable materials like PETG and plant-based PLA. Korneel also works with a materials supplier that runs completely on solar power, which is important since he uses 40-60 kilograms of filament a week. This conscious decision not only aligns with ethical considerations but also opens conversations with customers who prioritize eco-friendly practices.
“We believe that environmental impact is important to think about as a company,” Korneel stated. “We’re still producing plastic, but less plastic is better than more plastic. If you are producing plastic—and we still have to produce it since we use it in our daily lives—just think about the impact you’re having. It’s very easy to use recyclable materials or materials that don’t have an origin in oil. For example, one of the products we have from our supplier is completely made from waste materials from the production process. The color isn’t pretty, but for most of our customers, the color of the print doesn’t matter.”
Korneel works with a wide range of companies, producing parts for companies like Sessy (home battery), DATO Duo (musical instruments), Happy Pot (sustainable flower pots), and others. The flexibility of 3D printing empowers them to adapt swiftly to changes in supply chains and meet the demands of their customers.
“We should see 3D printing as part of a journey,” said Korneel. “And that’s one of the things that’s nice about 3D printing and one of the reasons why I’m still happy to be partnering with Protolabs Network by Hubs. If you’re a small company with a fantastic idea and you want to bring that to market, one of the nice things that 3D printing can do – and what Protolabs Network facilitates – is taking you on that journey through to manufacturing as well.”
Robin, 3D Printing Supply Chain Manager, Protolabs Network by Hubs noted, "We are proud to share that Korneel is one of our key Manufacturing Partners in the Netherlands. He has been an integral part of our FDM business within the EU for nearly 10 years now and has made remarkable contributions towards improving our on-time shipment record. Over the years, Korneel's dedication and hard work have enabled him to achieve one of the best on-time shipment records within the European additive network. This is especially noteworthy considering the high volume of orders he processes on a monthly basis as a 1-man company. Korneel's commitment to excellence has been a cornerstone of our success in the Netherlands, and we are grateful for his contributions to Protolabs Network by Hubs. We congratulate him on this outstanding accomplishment and look forward to his continued success in the future.”
Korneel’s journey with UltiMaker is a testament to the impact of reliable, efficient, and scalable 3D printing solutions on the growth of a business. From hobbyist to entrepreneur, Korneel showcases how strategic choices in technology, coupled with sustainability initiatives, can not only create a thriving business but also open new business ideas.