On March 7th, the Stratasys User Conference took place. The event, organized by the 3D printing giant, showcased some interesting use cases for Stratasys‘ AM technologies. The main purpose of the event was to highlight, through the direct experience of its customers, the competitive advantages offered by the Stratasys’ technologies, both in the prototype phase and in the production itself. Judging by the response, it was a winning idea.
Stratasys also revealed some fresh news at the event, including more details about its highly anticipated LPM technology for metals (with a launch date scheduled for 2021) and the presentation of a wide-ranging plan for the certification of materials, which also includes a project aimed at bringing 3D printed parts into airliners.
During the event, we had the opportunity to speak with Andy Langfeld, President of Stratasys EMEA, to learn more details on the company’s future plans for the market.
3dpbm: We have seen many applications and case studies during this conference: what are the most important sectors of interest for Stratasys?
Andy Langfeld: We are not interested in being present everywhere, yet we are also involved in a very large portion of the market. We are not trying to develop specific products for every sector such as consumer electronics, healthcare or the aerospace industry, but we want to create specific products for use cases and applications relevant to companies. If we look at the J750 or J735, for example, and the realism of both the parts and the colors that can be obtained with these systems thanks also to the Pantone certification for our colors, it is clear that our goal is to create more and more value for complex applications, where a unique product is needed.
We prefer to focus on value-added applications, ensuring the maximum realism for the parts and the highest efficiency for the production tools. We are working not only on hardware front, but also on industrial materials, which can provide added value in fields such as aerospace, automotive, consumer electronics and even 3D printing services.
This is essentially our goal. Our attention will continue to be focused on PolyJet technology, which is a unique FDM technology for the realism of the parts. There are perhaps one or two technologies that have materials and applications certified according to industry standards, whether it is for use in the railway sector, fire resistance or in the aerospace industry.
During the event, we saw a project related to the production of parts for the interior of airplanes. Is this part of a larger plan?
Langfeld: We are working not only on this specific project, but also on other applications to obtain the certifications necessary for different use cases. Our aim is to give customers a wide and specific offer for their application of interest, so as to be able to choose the solution that best suits their market. In a market full of suppliers, each one with different printers for sale, it is always difficult to choose the most suitable one. The decision could be simpler, however, if you know you are buying what is certified for your use case.
Can you tell us more about the new LPM technology for metal 3D printing?
Langfeld: It is a completely new technology which will be released on the market in 2021. The choice to launch the LPM technology is not a change of business strategy, but a change of business model. We already have different technologies and with this addition we will have an even broader portfolio. As already mentioned, this is something completely new: it is not FDM, it is not PolyJet, it is something that does not exist at all on the market. Our experience with PolyJet technology has served us tremendously during the LPM development process. As pioneers of the sector, which we believe we are, we do not want to copy what others do. We prefer to develop something new from scratch.”
How do you rate the Italian market regarding the adoption of 3D printing technologies?
Langfeld: I would say that Italy is very advanced. The interesting aspect of Italy is that it was one of the first countries to concretely embrace 3D printing solutions designed for production. We have a higher market share in Italy than other European countries, so I think Italy is very advanced. 2017 was a record year for us in Italy and the government is also doing a lot to push the country towards Industry 4.0. It can be said that Italy has proven to be a country capable of translating government support into value and that this situation is bound to recur in the future. The Stratasys User Conference also follows this trend: we want to create a network so that customers can share their opinion and their experience to find different applications.
Such initiatives can help a customer to introduce additive production within its own production cycle, from the design phase, to prototyping, to functional tests, up to limited series production. It is precisely from this point of view that customers often realize that they have a printer for a solution, but could buy another for a different solution.”
What can you tell us about Stratasys’ future projects?
Langfeld: From a technology perspective, we are considering the introduction of even more platforms into our portfolio. For example, we recently signed a joint venture with Xaar, a company that works on HSS technology; a strategic choice that should help us in this respect. When talking about new applications, it’s always difficult to say what the future holds, because the possibilities are really numerous. We prefer to work more on application certifications, so our customers will be able to buy a printer start printing immediately.