3D Systems is back on the upswing. Although things are still a bit rough around the edges, President and CEO Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi, is confident that the company’s unique value proposition will complete the turnaround. Recently we were able to catch up with Mr. Joshi to discuss the company’s short- and long-term vision for additive manufacturing. Below are some highlights of the insightful conversation with Joshi.
Speaking of the overall impact additive manufacturing will have on production-based industries, Joshi emphasized the importance of the customer and finding the correct value proposition. “We have to start with the customer,” he said. “The customer could be a dental lab, an aerospace company, an automotive company, an industry-wide goods company—we really just have to understand what are they trying to achieve, because everything is not going to be transformed with additive manufacturing. It has to be a very specific value proposition.”
Very few companies know the AM industry and its core adopters like 3D Systems. Although we sometimes like to think that the evolution of AM is just a simple matter of scaling productivity, the truth is that reality is much more complex and fragmented. In terms of value propositions for additive manufacturing, Joshi identified customization and manufacturing agility as two key points. “It either has to be custom complexity or agility, the way I see it,” he said. “So the customer comes to us and says: ‘This is a use case we have in mind, can you help us?’ And that’s where our Customer Innovation Center becomes very important.”
Experts at 3D Systems’ Customer Innovation Center assess whether a client’s use case has value propositions based on part design, desired materials and required mechanical properties. This enables the company to determine whether additive manufacturing is the best solution and—if it is—which platform is best suited for the job.
Digitalizing AM adopters
A notable challenge in adoption has been shifting the customer’s manufacturing mentality toward a more digital approach. The irony here is that some of the most prolific and long-time users of AM, the most “digital” of all manufacturing processes, implement fully “analogic” business models.
Joshi explains: “There’s a lot of work to do because, depending on the customer segment, there are very different maturity levels. If you think about companies like GE, they have been playing with this for 10 years and they understand it. Their maturity is very high. But then a lot of other automotive, aerospace or medical device companies that we work with want help. So, we sit down with our application engineers and then show them what we can offer. We also have a quality management system which enables us to tell them how to make it happen.”
By working closely with many of its clients, 3D Systems has found that the most value for its own business is found in its materials, software and services—more so than hardware. Notably, much of 3D Systems’ current business prospects are owed in part to Joshi himself, who came into his leadership position at 3D Systems about two and a half years ago.
Completing the turnaround
“When I joined the company, I looked at what 3D systems was doing,” he explained. “We didn’t have a lot of innovation. We had a lot of quality reliability issues. So I brought eight new leaders onto my team and they brought more people because we had to augment. We had great talent, but we had to design reliable products, to go after next-generation materials. Now, I feel very confident in the path we’re on, with the new platforms, like Figure 4, the DMP Factory and Flex 350, the software like 3DXpert, the materials like NextDent. And that’s what I have done. All the changes with the personnel, bringing new talent, getting new platforms and partners—that’s what we believe will create change.”
Looking at where 3D Systems sees the biggest opportunities for growth, Joshi points to the dental and healthcare markets because of their clear value propositions. “I really believe healthcare and dental will be the biggest opportunity that we have,” he said. “Another big opportunity is investment casting—it’s a huge market with a real value proposition. I also believe that metal will grow in aerospace, defense and the energy segment with printed gas turbines.”
“3D Systems can help you to build a solution. That’s our value proposition.”