I’m still trying to interview as many 3D printing resellers worldwide (want to be included, contact me!). I’m very interested in how they are “crossing the chasm” from desktop consumer printers to more industrial applications. Resellers to me are a bellwether of our overall success: if they are optimistic, fat and happy, then we will all soon be those things as well. We interviewed Gil Lavi of 3D Alliances before, his business is to connect OEMs to resellers worldwide and he acts as a matchmaker for our industry. So he’s kind of a meta-bellwether to our business. He recently has added new customers and is now offering company reports as well, so more than enough stuff for us to consider once again when looking back over the previous 12 months in 3D printing.
What has the last year been like?
Since 3D Alliances was launched at Formnext 2018, a lot has been going on. We managed to bring into the market new and unique business concept that answer the needs of two sides – 3D printing startups and 3D resellers. On one side we found an increasing number of 3D companies bringing amazing technologies to the market, but with limited resources and experience in deploying and managing global channel networks. On the other side, we saw that many 3D resellers are looking to add new solutions to their portfolio, but had difficulties in filtering and choosing the right companies to work with.
Since then we form business alliances with several innovative 3D printing companies including XJET – Metal and Ceramic 3D printing, Essentium – Super-Fast extrusion systems, and ParaMatters – Topology Optimization Software, and our new collaboration with Mosaic Manufacturing that enables multi-materials printing capabilities on desktop FFF printers.
In parallel, we managed to build the world’s largest network of 3D resellers – over 1,200 resellers from 72 countries that sell solutions ranging from 3D Software to professional and industrial 3D printing systems. So what we essentially do is help each of our business partners to recruit and manage the right sales partners for them, and we accelerate their business growth in the important transition phase between the end of product development to global business expansion.
Is it a challenging time to start a 3D printing business now?
I think it’s an exciting time to start a 3D printing business however, and this is a key success factor any entrepreneur must understand – if your product/solution/service doesn’t answer a real need throughout a unique technology or business concept, it will be very hard to be successful. Furthermore, bringing the right people on board is critical, especially the ones with specific expertise, that can leverage their experience and help lead the business throw-out the right path.
What has the market been like?
I think the market has matured in the way that end-users today understand there are gaps between technology demonstration as seen in trade shows and on social media, and between the true implementation of technologies in real manufacturing in their facilities. Also, the understanding that prior to choosing a new 3D solution, there is a need to define first what kind of problem or limitation need to be solved.
How is the market developing worldwide?
If we look at it from a wider perspective then pure 3D printing technologies, the major focus today in the market is about having a complete solution from design to end use parts. To achieve that, industrial users would need Software solutions such as generative design, data management and workflow solutions ect, 3D printing technologies that breaks the barriers of speed, strength and variety of materials, and post processing solutions for easy and repeatable support removal, surface fishing and dyeing. Once you tailor all of them into one workflow, only then automation is achieved, which is a must before implementing 3D printing in real manufacturing processes.
Are desktop 3D printers for consumers dead?
I don’t think it’s dead but more of a commodity market where price is the main factor. From the consumer’s perspective, it’s a comfortable situation, but if you are thinking about becoming a manufacturer of a new desktop printer, you should think twice unless you are planning to offer a very unique solution that others don’t have.
How is the Pro desktop 3D printing market evolving?
This segment is less crowded than the low-cost one since there are fewer manufacturers that offer more segmented solutions. Either high-thermoplastic metal replacement materials and or affordable SLS solutions for industries like Aerospace and Automotive, or DLP/SLA solutions for the medical and dental market. Having a professional solution in a reasonable budget is appealing for both small and large companies.
Are more people using 3D printing to manufacture?
More people understand this is the future and they are defiantly looking into ways to accomplish that, but I think there is a general understanding and maturity in the market that the implantation phase is a slower process then expected several years ago. Manufacturing has totally different processes and standards then prototyping.
What are the exciting developments on the material front?
Two major developments: the first is the accessibility of more engineering grade materials that are set to replace metal parts, and medical grade materials that open doors to new applications that were not possible before. The second is the fact that more OEMs are opening their systems to other materials then their own, and in parallel form business alliances with other big material players in the market to co-develop new materials.
What is Mosaic?
Talking about the saturation in the desktop market, Mosaic is a great example for a unique solution in the crowded segment of low cost FFF 3D printers, that answer a real need – simple and affordable multi-material printing. Mosaic pallets enable the use of most materials in the polymer family from impact resistance elastomers, all the way to fibre reinforced structural materials with hundreds of specialized options available in between. We see this as true innovation that answers a real need and this is why we joined forces with this exciting Canadian company.
Is the channel under threat from companies going direct? Or not at all?
I think the channels owns two major comparative advantages: first many of them sell a variety of Hardware and Software solutions and therefore they have a wider perspective of how all of these solutions should work together under one workflow. The second is the support and relationship side – their customers trust them to be a reliable advisor that also provides professional local support. The best combination for most of the companies who would like to go direct is to involve the channels in their activities.
What are your reports like?
Our 3D Reports Zone was created to help 3D resellers and users to use a third party resource to learn more about new innovative 3D start-ups. These reports include information that help to evaluate companies before even reaching out to them, including patents status, major shareholders split, total funding, end users’ and resellers references, case studies and more. This is another way to filter down interesting companies and to do your homework before thinking of working with them and or buying one of their products. Our goal is to set a standard in the way one explores and examine top startup companies in the industry.
What significant news do you have?
The new agreement with Mosaic Manufacturing is 3D Alliances first major activity in deploying and managing sales partners in Asia Pacific. Until today we were more focused on supporting our business partners in recruiting and managing channels in Europe and US, so this collaboration actually takes 3D Alliances to the global level. We are very excited about it and we look forward working with the young and energetic team of Mosaic.
What does the future hold for 3D Alliances?
In the coming months, we are looking into forming new business alliances with 3D companies that offer innovative Software and Post Processing solutions, to help them deploy channels, with a clear goal of accelerating their revenue stream. We believe they will be required by their customers to provide end-to-end solutions from design to end use parts. We will be there to assist them with choosing the best solutions to their portfolio.
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