Stratasys and Solvay today announced a joint materials roadmap which marks a more open materials offering for Stratasys Fortus 900 family of 3D printers. Belgian chemical company Solvay has a number of high performance materials such as PPSU and PEEK which so far it has sold directly to the market. Meanwhile, Stratasys has traditionally guarded access to material settings and materials. Stratasys always maintained that you should take their materials which are dialed into the printer. With perfect settings came reliable performance. Stratasys printers were known for good repeatability as well. You didn’t have to dial in materials. This brought limitations as well, Stratasys offered comparatively few materials when compared to open desktop FDM materials. A dozen compared to many dozens. FDM materials cost much more at Stratasys than in the wider market.
When people were prototyping, Stratasys’ approach made sense. If you’re making the prototype of the new Gilette Razor you don’t care if the material costs $30 a kilo or $400 per kilo. You want the razor to come out as perfect as is possible. On the other hand, if you’re an automotive company you know how much polymers cost. If you then move into manufacturing millions of parts you will balk at paying over the money for plastic. This put Stratasys in a difficult position of protecting its, steller on materials, margins or going after volume in manufacturing. Its chosen a kind of middle way that shows them openly working with a polymer company.
Christophe Schramm, Business Manager for Additive Manufacturing of Solvay’s Specialty Polymers Global Business Unit, said:
“We started commercializing PEEK, PPSU and Carbon Fiber Filled PEEK. We’re continuing to differentiate with our 35 polymer families, many competitors in each of them, no in all. We’re now offering an AM ready Radel filament cabin interior parts but will offer more.”
Rich Garrity, President, Americas, for Stratasys:
“By combining our expertise with Solvay, customers can make use of a broad range of high-performance applications – all while maintaining the level of quality and reliability expected from Stratasys high-performance FDM consumables.
“The partners will share an authorized partner materials roadmap to guide Solvay’s selection and development of materials for Stratasys FDM printers.”
We’re living in a time of high partnerships. Everyone everywhere is partnering in 3D printing. Its a very trendy thing to do. On the one part this is a very exciting announcement that could improve the business case for getting Stratasys 3D printers on the concrete floor in factories. But, what does this mean for Stratasys cooperation with Sabic who have traditionally been their supplier for Ultem? What does this mean for Evonik, DSM or other companies? Will Stratasys have a material alliance just like Ultimaker has? Or do they risk alienating some polymer giants in favor of closer relationships with others? Just recently the company released Antero 800 NE PEKK which I’m fairly certain is an Arkema PEKK rebranded. Do we now have different tiers of partner where some, namely Solvay, are in the driving seat while others have white label products? Meanwhile, there is very little mention of Sabic, a past mainstay of Stratasys’ portfolio.
The focus of this alliance will be on the 900 family of Fortus systems as well. This means that the top of the line Fortus printer would have this material but other printers could perhaps not have access to it? All in all, this is a very exciting move and I’m curious to see what else will happen in the future.
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