In September 2018, French 3D printing company Prodways appointed Stefano Rebecchi as its new Marketing Manager. With an extensive technical background and having previously served as Product Manager for Prodways, Rebecchi is working to set up a more concrete marketing strategy for the company, based less on the brand itself and more on the AM products, their characteristics and possible new fields of use.
We recently spoke with Rebecchi to find out more about his new role within Prodways and about the company’s recent innovations.
3dpbm: Let’s start with an overview of your position at Prodways. What is your role there?
Stefano Rebecchi: My position is that of Marketing Manager. My previous role was that of Product Manager for the laser sintering division. Now, I have evolved more generally as Marketing Manager with an eye that is more attentive to product marketing than to marketing the brand itself.
Prodways is a company that started working in this market four years ago, and it started with a bang. This was largely thanks to the fact that it has a large industrial group [Groupe Gorgé] behind it, which allowed Prodways to grow at a speed much greater than average.
Prodways, however, started with a very stock market-oriented approach and a lot of communication—especially at the beginning—focused on this aspect. This is still present, but what was missing was more attention to the products themselves. It’s a big company and it’s growing even bigger, without losing its roots.
3dpbm: Given your role, do you take care of specific products or everything that Prodways does?
SR: A little bit of everything Prodways does. To do better, it is necessary to keep the Prodways organization chart in mind: at the top is Groupe Gorgé, then there is Prodways Group and within the Prodways Group there are three macro-brands. One of these is Prodways Technology, which collects the technologies in itself, including Laser Sintering, SolidWorks (recently acquired), RAF Technology and Rapid Additive Forging. To these are added a couple of companies (ExcelTec and Deltamed) that produce and develop materials. This is the part of Prodways most related to me.
Then there are two other branches of Prodways that are more related to services: the Service Bureau and the Parts Production Service. Connected to the parts production service, there is also another of the acquisitions made by the Prodways group, AvenAo, which is an authorized Solidworks dealer. Finally, everything related to design and production is a second stock, such as the medical segment with Scientifeet, which develops customized sintering soles, Interson-Protac for hearing aids and the dental laboratory called Cristal.
Even if these last two parts are a little less tied to me, there is always a transfer of information between the blocks.
3dpbm: Speaking of products, what are the current leading products at Prodways? For the global market and the Italian market?
SR: For the Italian market, automotive and mechanics are the main segments. This is just the beginning, however, because in reality we have not been in Italy for a long time. The first approach was with Namitech from the sintering sector, then we had a customer from Bologna which started with an LD10 (based on MovingLight DLP technology) and they bought two more. These are our starting points for the Italian market.
The agreement with Namitech is really interesting because for us it is both a partner and a user of the machine, since it offers services but it will also be a retailer with a more industrial focus. For us, it is important that those who use the machines, or who are retailers, know not only how to sell, but also know how to use the machines. When you are dealing with industrial machines like ours, buying is the easiest part; knowing how to use it, finding the right process based on particular applications, that is the added value. We have the strength to be small enough to be able to do it again. We try to be a little closer to the customer. And that’s exactly what Namitech can do in the field of sintering.
3dpbm: Does Prodways have any markets that it is placing more of an emphasis on?
SR: Not at the moment. We have the technology, but it’s the market that determines what it is used for. Let’s say that in the sintering sector we have created a niche with the P1000 in an industrial market, but with a slightly more accessible cost. Sintering has been around for twenty years, but now there is more interest in new materials. The speed has changed, so there is a shift between prototyping and production even in small series and there the difference is made by the materials. In the end, it is the material you go to use that often makes the difference. As for sintering, we are happy with the results obtained, considering that it is an already mature market where there are big players. We are happy and we are not stopping. We are already working on what will be the future of the P1000.
3dpbm: What about the MovingLight technology?
SR: Here, there are two sectors that are dominating: the dental and injection molding markets. In the dental industry, the big advantage is that with MovingLight technology we can have very large production platforms and a very high resolution on every single piece that is printed. We are amazed by the amount of requests in this field; the Italian market is growing a lot, perhaps even more than in France. The other use is injection molding, or 3D molding as our partners have called it. Basically, instead of making an aluminum or metal injection mold, the mold is created through rapid prototyping. We have composite resins that are perfect for small series production. This, for example, is where our collaboration with L’Oréal came about, through which it is adopting this technique to reduce the development cycle of some products.
3dpbm: Prodways also offers ceramic materials. How is this segment evolving?
SR: Yes, in addition to all this there is the ceramic niche. We just launched a new printer on the Chinese market, as we have a collaboration with a Chinese company that develops ceramic pastes. For now, the machine is in beta phase and we have sold three units in China. It’s a bit like with laser sintering and MovingLight: in the end it’s not just the machine matters but it’s the application with a particular material. Our Chinese users are very prepared from this point of view and we are waiting for their feedback. Once collected, we will also launch this machine in Europe.
3dpbm: In what geographical region do you notice a greater growth in market shares?
SR: It took a while in Europe but now we are a solid presence there. We are also growing in the United States, where the market is evolving. There, we started first with sintering, helped by the fact that we have Varia 3D in Texas, a service bureau specialized in sintering. We even managed to place a P1000 in an American military research center.
Regarding the dental market, we have participated in some trade fairs, though there is less coverage with regard to sintering systems and even a little less competition. Our tactic from this point of view is having an open machine. Obviously, it is a double-edged sword because it means that everyone can use the powders they want. But it was a way of entering a market that was totally closed and that allowed us to start entering the American market.
3dpbm: Solidscape right now is quite autonomous: do you think it will remain a separate brand?
SR: For a period of time it will surely remain a separate brand, because it is an important brand. However, we aim to merge the mutual knowledge. Even if the markets are different, in the end, an idea born for a DLP machine can act as a starting point for the development of a wax machine—such as those of Solidscape.
3dpbm: And finally, what are Prodways’ goals for 2019?
For 2019 we are working on the launch of the ceramic printer currently in beta testing in China. Obviously we will continue with the research on new materials, to explore new market niches and to test new mechanical applications also for the LD10 and LD20, which currently have a focus on dental. There will also be news on the Solidscape front, even if it is a more rigid and consolidated market. But it’s interesting, especially for me: just three months ago I did not know anything about jewelry, but now I’m becoming an expert!