3D printing whiz Josef Průša named youngest Czech ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in history

Josef Průša, photo: archive of Prusa Research

Josef Průša, founder of a start-up company that has grown to become one of the largest manufacturers of 3D printers and cartridges in the world, has been named Czech ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by the global consultancy EY. Now 31, he is the youngest Czech in the 35-year history of the program ever chosen to represent the country at the global finals, which will take place in Monte Carlo.

Josef Průša is founder and owner of Prusa Research – the Czech accents were omitted to make it easier for the world to pronounce – which he formally started in 2012 in a Prague basement. But even back then, he was making a name for himself. In an interview for Czech Radio, when still a student at the University of Economics, he explained how he got his start.

“I first came across a 3D printer project on the Internet and found it really interesting. I built my own printer and kept improving it over time. When you have the chance to create virtually anything using a 3D printer, almost immediately, or in at most a few hours, you learn to think about objects themselves, what can be improved. My 3D printer is the best created in the open community so far. But I keep working on it, always tweaking, tweaking, tweaking. Every, week, I improve some aspect.”

Josef Průša,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio

That drive and perseverance has paid off. Now, less than a decade after Josef Průša gave that first interview, his company has 500 employees, sells some 10,000 3D printers and cartridges a month in more than 160 countries worldwide.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Czech Republic in the spring of 2020, Prusa Research turned its inhouse technology to developing protective medical shields, eventually distributing a quarter million of them, free of charge. Also in this instance, Josef Průša saw room for improvement in the personal protective equipment (or PPE).

“In the 3D community, various designs for respirators and so on had been circulating for some time. After analysing them, I determined they were inadequate, mainly because they gave a false sense of security… I saw someone trying to 3D print a medical shield. We threw ourselves into it, made an original design. From the very start, we worked with the Ministry of Health and tested it in hospitals, so they would work well.”

Photo: archive of Prusa Research

Jose Průša’s company published detailed plans for its fully certified shield on social media networks, allowing people around the world to make them on their own 3D printers. For that effort, he was awarded the Czech Red Cross last year for helping tackle the Covid-19 epidemic. The lower house of Parliament also proposed to President Miloš Zeman that he be awarded the National Medal of Merit.