As we reported when we announced the launch of the new MakerBot Replicator + systems, Stratasys has refocused its strategy for the low cost 3D printers, now targeting primarily professionals and educators. Andreas Langfeld, MakerBot’s EMEA GM, is the man tasked with seeing this through and, by leveraign on his previous experience as Stratasys VP of finance, he seems to know exactly how to do it. We met him to find out exactly how the company intends to reposition itself to strengthen its desktop 3D printing market leadership.
3D Printing Media Network: Can you tell us a little about how it all began for you at MakerBot?
Andreas Langfeld: “I started in MakerBot as general manager in May 2015. Before that I was VP of finance and operations in Stratasys. It feels like forever but it has been only a year and a half. Back then we were experiencing some difficulties ion the market because of repeated print failures and the product was proving to not be as robust as we had hoped for. At the same time we realized that the consumer market we had been targeting was not coming to maturity as rapidly as we had believed it would.”
3DPMN: How did you face these challenges?
AF: “My mission was to take EMEA through the relief phase, reorganize the teams and set a clear focus on professional prototyping and education. Basically prepare the road toward the launch of the new products that we had last month. That is what we did. With Stratasys’ help we cleaned up our operations and began working on extensive testing and R&D for the new tough PLA materials we just released. Now we have laid the foundations to build our future business and to become much more aggressive in the market space.”
3DPMN: Which have you identified as the ideal synergies between MakerBot and Stratsys products?
AF: “I see a lot of benefits in the complementary uses of Makerbot and Stratasys products and we are going to continue to offer both to our clients, in order to be able to provide the best solutions for their specific requirements. We have the right offering whether the client is already in the early design stages, or still just at the idea. Or if they want to develop many iterations of a product or just get something rapidly from idea to printed object in order to develop enhanced models for functional testing, for high quality prototypes, all the way to manufacturing of the product on the shelf.”
3DPMN: What can MakerBot systems now offer to these clients?
AF: “Starting with our best seller for example, Makerbot Replicator, we can now guarantee an even better ease of use that can be applied to the entire the workflow. With the launch of the new “Plus” version we have reiterated the importance of this product, which has been basically designed from the core as a new product, with a new gantry, a new Z-stage, a flexible build tray. At the same time our top of the line Z-18 remains a unique product on the market simply in terms of tray size and connectivity of such a large format printer. We have been continuously improving it over the past year and we are working to make this product more and more reliable.”
3DPMN: Do you still see MakerBot as market leader in the FFF segment?
AF: “It’s very difficult to say because as you said the numbers vary so much. I try to analyze trends in order to understand what is going on in the market, which price segments are more demanded by the customers, which filaments are used more. What we can say is with the track record that we can analyse we still have the largest installed base worldwide as we just recently celebrated the one hundred thousandth printer. One hundred thousand Makerbots, which are now being used in the field, gives us enough confidence to claim to be the market leader. If we also look at brand recognition, Makerbot is still a very powerful name in 3D printing. It doesn’t really matter what competition is doing because competition is always good in a growing market.”
3DPMN: Are you going to continue to go after the consumer market?
AF: “We certainly are not going to turn our back to the consumer market, there are still so many consumers that are interested in the technology and want to play around. I think you can really compare this evolutionary pattern to that of the PC: the first computer was as big as a room and it took nearly 50 years to get computers into the home market. We are preparing for this to come but right now we are focusing primarily on professionals and educators. Education in particular has been the elevator to mass adoption for many technologies.”
3DPMN: Do you thing that the entry of larger companies will be beneficial to the industry?
AF: “I feel that all companies are united in pushing 3D printing adoption and when you take a look at the potential applications and use cases in the market, just two companies like 3D systems and Stratasys are not enough to truly convey this message to a wider public. Things like sacrificial tooling and surgical guides have the potential to be as big as the entire 3D printing industry today. Over time all of the players in the market will either apply a certain focus to specific verticals or there will be consolidations and collaborations that will enable us to really tackle those applications and drive them into widespread adoption.”
3DPMN: Which are the biggest EMEA markets for MakerBot today?
AF: “The biggest country is Germany, as we follow the classical technology patterns where you have Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain and then Sweden and Scandinavia which are the dominant markets. Beyond that have a list of countries that are less technologically advanced but – especially when when it comes to education – we see a very strong adoption in economically weaker countries because they want to prepare their country for the future and they want to be on top of it.”