3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi, whom everyone calls VJ, took the reins at a precarious time in the firm’s 33-year history. An M&A adventure that seemed inspired more by Pacman than long term strategy had seen institutional capacity stretched gossamer thin. Swallowing 43 firms had left it complex, confused, mismanaged, directionless and with low morale. In 2016 it was more like the medieval Italian city-states than one slender efficient coordinated firm. The pioneering company that invented stereolithography had lost its way. 32 year HP veteran VJ was brought in to right the ship and get it underway. Over the past few years, 3D Systems has made good progress becoming more coherent and cohesive. We spoke to VJ to discern more about the path ahead.
VJ really sees that the company’s “strategy is coming alive.” By “starting with customer use cases” and using the breadth of the company’s offering in “hardware, materials, software, and services to address customer needs..we have the company that can address all production workflows.” “Depending on the applications the right kind of technology can be used.” Stereolithography is “used to make 433,000 aligners a day” but “if you don’t want a molding but need to manufacture an end-use part, Figure4 comes into its own.” He sees “sacrificial tooling and eggshell molding” as very promising areas for the Figure 4.
3D Systems has traditionally done it all itself; from the materials to the printers. For metal however, it has partnered with GF Machining Solutions, why? For metals there is still significant “post-processing required in metal, such as EDM or five access milling” and for this “we have to have the right combination between us and partners.” For metals he believes, “we need a series of machines” and “we need automation” which will eventually “lead to the end to end factory.”
In the service bureau and medical arena he says that “3D Systems has the whole solution” from a lot of “domain knowledge for medical.. surgical planning software..and manufacturing” to the “ability to put you into an FDA approved process.” He reminds us that “500,000 spinal cages a year are 3D printed on 3D Systems printers.” He sees the company play a role where “customization and complexity…meet the life sciences and medical devices.”
The path ahead is “focussed on the customer” with their “Customer Innovations Center…enabling end-user parts” and the company now saying “let us help you design and manufacture the part.” Right now, companies are “adopting Additive manufacturing for production parts” where it matters, when “it is beneficial to do so for the design..it can compress the go-to-market or when tooling costs are too high.” “3D Systems is uniquely placed to be the one platform to make manufacturing happen” through its machines or services whenever appropriate, and in this scenario “our software is the glue” that lets this occur. Because the company has several technologies they are “the right platform with the right hardware and materials” that you can select from. This combination “really lets us look at the factory floor..from the 200 million parts made with 3D Systems today..to the future.”
Right now it takes companies months to get to grips with 3D printing and many more months to master it enough to contemplate manufacturing. If 3D Systems bulked up its design services and used its service arm to take people from idea to manufacturing using 3D printing faster, it could really accelerate its own business and others.
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