Anton Sithole of 3verteD: Innovative Use of Thermoplastics Sets a Sustainable Standard
Entrepreneur of the Month: 3verteD
By Cebelihle Mthethwa.
In a world where sustainability is paramount, entrepreneurs Anton and Chris Sithole have emerged as trailblazers, leading the charge toward a more eco-conscious and efficient future. Through their visionary 3-dimensional (3D) printing company, 3verteD, the Sithole brothers are not only reshaping the landscape of manufacturing but are also setting a shining example of how businesses can play a pivotal role in safeguarding the environment.
Founded in 2022, 3verteD might be a newcomer to the scene, but its impact has been nothing short of remarkable. Anton and Chris have swiftly turned their venture into a beacon of success, capturing the attention of their local Western Cape province and attracting customers from far and wide. Their dedication to sustainability and innovation has fuelled their growth and earned them a reputation as pioneers in the field.
According to Anton, they use 3D printing and advanced design to create, modify, and improve production processes and products itself. They cater specifically to industrial manufacturers, but can broaden out into the consumer market, students, designers and hobbyists.
“Our business concept essentially started from a design I had on my computer, and Chris suggested we get a 3D printer. Once we got the printer, we realised this was a very effective way to bring ideas to life. The business started off as a hobby. At first, we were just printing random things, but we then started to dive deeper into design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), and engineering-grade thermal plastics. Which is essentially what we print with,” says Anton.
The co-founders of 3verteD eventually found a market for their prints in manufacturing companies. Through their research, Anton explained that they found that companies were spending a lot of money, time and effort using old traditional methods to produce parts. After approaching the companies and pitching their solution as an alternative to those costly processes, they began growing their client base.
“The normal thermoplastics that we use are recycled and disposed of appropriately. Part of our mission is also to reduce waste. If you think of a massive manufacturing plant that is just disposing of waste daily, 3D printing reduces that depending on the project. One of our clients reduced its waste by about 30%, which was major for them because they now no longer had to incur costs for that waste that they had,” notes Anton.
He added that composites are also harmful to the environment because they can’t necessarily be recycled. However, they have a strategic plan on how they will reuse composites such as nylon infused glass and carbon fibre.
Anton and Chris’ experience in design and manufacturing has played a big role in the running of the business. Anton is also currently studying Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University. However, Anton shared that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, as they have faced challenges in dealing with loadshedding, getting high-performance engineering-grade plastics into the country, and educating people about the benefits of 3D printing. The two-man team had to think on their feet, and resorted to integrating generator and UPS power which keeps them going even during loadshedding.
3verteD’s notable milestones include becoming uninterrupted, and the integration of their materials. When they first started, the business was using very basic plastics such as PLA, ABS, and PETG. However, they are now sitting with some of the highest-performing plastics such as PP-GF, Nylon-CF, Nylon-GF and PC, with some even replacing metal parts. The pair attributes some of its entrepreneurial training to an entrepreneurship boot camp by the NYDA, inclusion in their parents’ businesses, as well as LaunchLab.
“Technology has played a major role in our business. We started off with a single printer. We figured that it’s not actually just the printing that is giving us a boost in providing the service, but the printing helps us to improve our design scope and ability which helps us to communicate with clients effectively to ideate solutions in terms of the cost and the time aspect,” Anton explained.
3verteD’s goals for the future are to expand their services to produce metal 3D printed parts, and target different industries, beyond industrial.