A 3D print entrepreneur faces huge challenges in Ukraine, and has launched an important initiative.
Oleksii Solntsev is one of many 3D print entrepreneurs around the globe developing new technology for industry. That isn’t unique, but his location is: he’s building his company, SmartZavod, in the midst of the war in Ukraine.
SmartZavod is developing a “smart factory” (“Smart Zavod” means “smart factory” in Ukrainian) that is both multimaterial and multifunctional, and targeted at production applications. Solntsev and his master’s degree colleagues from the University of Applied Sciences in Hof, Germany have been working on the technology for a couple of years, after building a prototype at University.
The project is quite interesting in a technical sense, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.
Instead we’re focusing on the environment in which Solntsev and team have been working within for the past ten months.
In February of 2022, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine with the intent to depose the government and take over control, perhaps even absorbing the entire country with a formal union with Russia.
Many Ukrainians volunteered to fight and joined the armed forces, supplied with equipment and material from Ukraine and the West. Succeeding months saw the country besieged with bombs, missiles, artillery and other weapons causing great damage to civilian infrastructure and generating massive disruption in all aspects of life.
That includes the work environment. I cannot imagine how Solntsev manages to maintain progress on his 3D printer project in current conditions, but somehow he is doing so.
But it’s worse than that.
In a recent LinkedIn post, Solntsev describes a very personal situation that affected him.
Two of his childhood friends, Maxim and Andrew, joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and have been fighting an intense battle in Bakhmut.
If you’re not familiar with this small city, it’s become the focus of Russian attacks in the west of the country. Daily artillery barrages flow back and forth over the land between the trenches in an intense World War I-style action. The city of 70,000 is now completely depopulated and the buildings entirely reduced to ruins.
Unfortunately, the causalities in this battle are also at levels similar to WWI.
Two of the casualties were Maxim and Andrew, who were both killed in action in recent weeks.
While two friends were lost, Oleksii has two more friends in the UAF continuing the battle, Andreas (from Sweden but assisting in Ukraine) and Melsik. In honor of his friend Melsik, and to assist the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Solntsev last week opened a fundraising campaign on the very day when Melsik was to be married.
The campaign intends to collect sufficient funding to acquire two specialized evacuation vehicles for use by the UAF. These will assist in bringing the wounded back from the front to safety as battles continue.
Solntsev has already connected with the necessary organizations and people to make arrangements for the vehicles, and has in the past channeled over US$200,000 towards similar campaigns to assist his many soldier friends.
We are all busy folks working on and using 3D print technology, but Solntsev is part of our community. All of today’s big 3D print companies started small, just like SmartZavod is today, and they grew over time to become significant parts of our 3D print community.
Solntsev is one of us, and he needs our help, as does Ukraine itself.
I strongly recommend reading Solntsev’s post and consider contributing to his project. Please pass this message on to as many in our community as you can.