To all our readers - hoping you've all had a fantastic holiday break and wishing you all a very successful 2013!
In the spirit of all new beginnings, we've begun 2013 with some groundbreaking news: Objet and Stratasys - both 3D printing leaders in their own rights, have now merged to become one company. You can read the full press release on this news here.
So what does all this mean for the future of 3D printing? I'm sure anyone who's followed this blog over recent months and years has more than a few questions. Having put many of these revelant questions together I then approached David Reis, the CEO of the new company, for some answers. Here's the full transcript of our hour-long conversation! Enjoy.
Sam Green: What was the rational of the merger and what do you see as the main value for your customers?
David Reis: We believe that it was an ideal time for our two very successful companies to merge. Both companies have grown to become very successful entities in their own rights and we are now bringing together the best of both these worlds. We have complementary technologies, similar cultures of innovation and dedication to customer service. We have also known each other on a personal basis, as Stratasys used to distribute Objet systems until 2007.
Because the 3D printing market is growing so rapidly today, we believe that a larger organization such as we’ve created will be better positioned to respond to these changes. As a combined company we have a presence in every strategic region, with 260 resellers worldwide, and we are in a much better position to execute dedicated vertical offerings such as dental, education and our manufacturing DDM segments. We are also stronger financially and from a management perspective.
SG: Can you talk about the vision for the new company?
DR: We can break down the vision for the company into three parts.
First, to put it simply, our vision is to lead the 3D printing revolution that we now see taking shape. What does it mean to lead it? For us, it means seeing a Stratasys 3D Printer in every scenario where it can help to improve the design and manufacturing process. That means a 3D printer at every workstation, office, department and company involved in design, engineering and production, worldwide.
Hand in hand with this vision, we also have a challenge: To ensure that 3D printing gains the recognition it truly deserves as an essential, integral part of the product design, development and manufacturing process. This means that everyone should become as familiar with 3D printing as they once did with 2D printing, or fax machines or e-mail or social media. And I believe it is happening. It’s taken us a while to break out of our specialized niche and into the mainstream of public awareness, but we’re almost there. In fact, there isn't a week that goes by without finding discussions about 3D printing in the mainstream media and business publications, on TV, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.
And on a third level – and really this is the linchpin to the whole vision – is to ensure that the Stratasys name is synonymous with the 3D printing industry as a whole. And to do this, to be the most desirable brand name in the industry, we are working constantly to build systems that are recognized for their superior quality, superior performance, top reliability, cost-effectiveness, ease-of-use and even aesthetics.
SG: 3D Printing has been around for 20 years or more. So what’s really so special about 3D printing and why now?
DR: 3D printing represents a paradigm shift in the way some forms of production take place. Traditional production takes an existing material and shapes it using cutting tools and then assembles the parts – what we call ‘subtractive’ manufacturing. 3D printing on the other hand is more like nature in some respects, which creates an item essentially from nothing, or from the ground up, through an ‘additive’ process. So in our case we add very thin layers of plastic or acrylic material to one another until we produce an object.
It’s true that 3D printing has been in use now for more than 20 years in various industries. But that should reassure us that we’re not dealing with just another hype phenomenon here, but rather a real and mature technology.
Two factors are now working to bring 3D printing to the forefront of people’s attention today. The first is the wave of 3D content that can now be found everywhere. This content is growing, from 3D cinema to 3D CAD programs all the way to MRI scans.
3D printing is the natural output device for all this 3D content, in the same way that a regular desktop printer became the natural output device for Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.
The second factor is economics. 3D printing allows designers, engineers and manufacturers to produce better products and bring them to market faster. So the implications for recession-hit economies are obvious. President Obama’s administration has already pledged funding of up to $60 million to a National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. And the EU has released a report showing how the continent plans to prioritize 3D printing for the purpose of reviving their manufacturing sector which has been hit quite badly in recent years.
SG: How will 3D printing affect our future as ordinary people and every-day businesses?
DR: First of all, 3D printing will, and already is, freeing up the design process, making it quicker, more agile and more creative. With a 3D printer, designers can verify their design ideas almost instantly with a physical, realistic model. And if you don’t like it, you can re-iterate on demand. This is a hugely powerful force multiplier. It encourages and enables better collaboration and communication among teams. It makes the manufacturing process more agile which enables companies to easily offer customized and personalized products. And at the end of the day, it enables better products to be placed in the hands of consumers - and faster than ever before.
If we think about it from a historical perspective, 3D printing brings us the best of both the pre-and post-industrial worlds: You can now have custom-made goods, but with the quality assurance and cost-efficiency of mass production. Essentially, we’re talking here about the next industrial revolution.
SG: What do you expect to see for 3D printing in 2013?
DR: We anticipate new innovations at all ends of the 3D printing spectrum. At the low end this means smaller, affordable systems offering professional 3D printing capabilities such as Mojo, while at the high end we expect larger, more capable systems – such as the new Objet1000 wide format 3D printer.
Furthermore, we expect a greater push towards 3D printing for Direct Digital Manufacturing with the Fortus line. This means more manufacturers using 3D printing to produce short run production parts. In the wider 3D world, we expect 3D content to continue to become more available and we expect greater and greater anticipation from mainstream audiences – not just professional designers but also students, teachers, researchers, hobbyists, model makers and new business innovators.
SG: David, thank you very much for your time.
DR: You're very welcome. And I wish all your readers and all our customers and partners a very happy and successful new year!
To read more from David Reis, I highly recommend a visit to our sister blog to read his latest article entitled 'From This Day, Forward'.
Also make sure to read the new post by Scott Crump - the remarkable co-founder of Stratasys and the new Chairman of the Board - 'A New Chapter and My New Role at Stratasys'
You can also learn more about the combined company by visiting www.Stratasysfora3DWorld.com