AMS Spring 2023

On the Ground with XJet’s New CEO: Ceramics & Metal 3D Printing Growth On Display

6K SmarTech

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On my recent trip to Israel, I had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of metal and ceramics 3D printing provider XJet in Rehovot Science Park. My visit came about two weeks after the company announced the installation of its first commercial metal 3D printer, the Carmel 1400M, with a customer, specifically AM firm Azoth3D, so it was an exciting time.

But soon after I arrived, I learned that things were even more exciting than I’d originally thought. I had the surprise opportunity to meet Yair Alcobi, who is taking the reins at XJet as the new CEO, as the company announced just this morning. Founder and current CEO Hanan Gothait will move into the position of President. As he told me that day, this means “the company is gearing up to the next stage of life…fully commercialized, fully industrialized.”

Carmel 1400. Image courtesy of XJet.

“We developed a unique technology that’s totally different than what exists for 3D manufacturing of metal and ceramics,” Gothait told me. “It’s not binder jet. It’s not laser sintering. We’re the only one in the world that’s jetting the material and the support material.”

He reminded me that XJet’s systems are user-friendly, with no powder or waste, and offer “straightforward part production” at 10 micron accuracy. That’s why the company believes it will be “a serious player in the manufacturing segment” for high-value parts with complex geometries and high resolution. Gothait, who’s been the CEO since 2014, said XJet has invested a lot of money in developing its unique NanoParticle Jetting (NPJ) technology. Part of his journey involved “bringing the company to where it is now,” with many good ceramics customers and now its first metal customer.

Hanan Gothait, Founder of XJet. Image courtesy of XJet.

He explained that, at the beginning, XJet was involved with a lot of R&D and development efforts, finding customers for beta testing, and introducing its technology and products to the market. But now, the company is preparing to ramp up sales and production over the next several years and work to achieve mass commercialization. Gothait said he told the company’s Board of Directors that XJet would need a strong CEO to properly execute this next phase, and they all accepted the idea.

“Luckily we met Yair at the same time, who was considering leaving his current job,” Gothait told me. “I’m personally excited to see the company, led by Yair, become a major player with major revenues for the coming years.”

Alcobi was most recently the President of the PCB Division of KLA, which works in the semiconductor industry. Previously, he was President of Orbotech East Asia Subsidiary, a KLA Company. Alcobi has spent the last four years “running a big division of seven product families” with various multidisciplinary offerings, including inkjet printing and lithography. He’d decided it was time to consider moving on. “When I met Hanan and the team, I realized there was some very unique technology here.”

“I think for many years XJet was looking for the right combination to make the perfect product offering,” Alcobi told me. “This is the exact time where the product is in the right position to drive the adoption of the market segments.”

According to XJet’s press release, Alcobi has plenty of experience in successfully growing profits and revenues, and he confirmed this during our chat, explaining that he’s been through “similar processes with other technology.” He said that they “reached a tipping point where everything exploded, and I hope we can reach that quickly here.”

“Hanan created the industry, and we have the perfect talent here, so I’m optimistic,” Alcabi told me.

Yair Alcobi takes the position of XJet CEO starting May 1st. Image courtesy of XJet.

Alcobi said that, at KLA, he was responsible for 1,000 employees, 500 of whom lived in Asia, and ran a variety of product categories, such as inspection and optics—”very multidisciplinary.” While there, he ran all the business channels, supporting functions, R&D, sales and marketing, customer service, and more for these categories, and spent plenty of time “working with major players in Asia, especially in ceramics.” Alcobi mentioned that Japan is a huge market with plenty of technology, and that the country is filled with early adopters of new technology, so I asked if a focus on Asia would be one of his first major priorities as CEO of XJet. However, he said that his main focus would be on the “established market” in the U.S., and that he would work to understand that more first.

“It’s too early for me to declare anything, but from the overall perspective, the U.S. market is an extremely important one,” he told me.

Gothait confirmed that the U.S. will “likely remain the most important market.” Alcobi agreed, saying that “at the end of the day, the U.S. is bringing back lots of manufacturing capabilities, and additive manufacturing will obviously be key in that role,” so he believes the market here will continue to grow.

While they couldn’t share any names, Alcobi and Gothait told me that XJet has some pretty exciting customers lined up, and is in discussion with a few other big names as well. Additionally, the company has a lot of installations coming, some of which are repeated orders, which is obviously very positive news. So I’ll have to keep my ear to the ground.

With Alcobi firmly settled at the steering wheel during this important time for XJet, he’ll receive support from Avi Cohen, who joined XJet as Executive Chairman of the Board last year.

“It has been a comprehensive process to search for a new CEO for XJet. We interviewed and considered many candidates before making our decision,” Cohen said in the press release. “Yair’s record in scaling businesses is enviable and exactly the right fit for taking XJet to the next level. We have exciting times ahead and I am sure that Yair has what it takes to make XJet successful. I look forward to working closely with Yair.”

Orit Tesler Levy joined XJet as CFO in April. Image courtesy of XJet.

XJet also announced the appointment of Orit Tesler Levy as the company’s CFO to round out an already strong management team. Most recently the Finance Director at Emerson, Tesler Levy has plenty of industry experience, as she was previously VP Finance FP&A Business Partnering at Stratasys, and held multiple positions Applied Materials in Israel and Silicon Systems Segment in California.

Before I met with Gothait and Alcobi, I first sat down with Haim Levi, VP Strategic Marketing, who’s been been involved with additive manufacturing “since the beginning.” He was one of the founders of Cubital, which he told me was one of the first companies to invent 3D printers. He was also with Objet from its formation until it merged with Stratasys, where he spent nearly a decade as Region Manager North Central Europe. Levi gave me an excellent refresher on XJet, which holds more than 80 patents, and its NPJ technology.

NanoParticle Jetting is based on nanoparticles suspended in a liquid dispersion, and it’s important to note that this material jetting process is not binder jetting. Droplets are jetted, and once they touch the hot build plate, the liquid evaporates, leaving behind the material to build a part. NPJ can print two materials at the same time in this powderless process.

Weighing in at 3 tons, the Carmel 1400 offers high rate jetting with 24 heads, 512 nozzles, and 18,000 droplets jetted per second in thin layers. The system also has two build trays, each one measuring 500 mm x 140 mm, so the amount of parts that can be printed in one job is pretty impressive. Levi told me that parts fabricated using NPJ have excellent part properties, including high density, low shrinkage, and isotropy. He said that the process itself is short and simple, offering design freedom to create near net shape parts with complex geometries, smooth surface, and fine details.

We were then joined by Marketing Manager Alon Ziv and Dr. Ophira Melamed, Customer Success Director and, as Levi told me, responsible for the company’s Additive Manufacturing Centre (AMC), which opened its doors in 2018. I got a tour of the AMC, which is where all aspects of the company’s NPJ process—including software, hardware, QA, measurement and more—are tested. The AMC includes an Application Center and an R&D lab for chemistry, materials development, and testing the company’s water-based SMART station for automated support removal. A Carmel 1400 tray fits easily inside, and the SMART station can drain 45 liters of water a minute, heat five liters a minute in 30°C, and features a 250 or 500 L/H flow rate system for reverse osmosis.

I learned that Carmel 1400 systems with a silver stripe in the middle print ceramics, including alumina, zirconia, and other technical ceramics with superior chemical, thermal, mechanical, and electrical properties, while the printers with bronze in the middle are for printing metals, such as tool steels and stainless steels.

While in the AMC, I had the opportunity to see and photograph some impressive prototype parts in the lab. Equally impressive were the real 3D printed parts, of which I obviously could not take pictures as they were either still in development or proprietary.

Levi told me that XJet is installing machines “all over,” including in Asia and Europe. The installations are still mostly ceramic systems, but the company is currently in the final stages of agreements for its metal systems, several of which should be installed by the end of the year. The company does have service people in the US right now, and as it is such an important market, as Alcobi and Gothait said, XJet is working to set up business representation there as well. The company is also working on something pretty exciting that isn’t yet public because it’s still in development, but could have major applications for medical implants in the future.

I had a very enjoyable and insightful visit to XJet, and I’m excited to see how the company continues to progress under Alcobi. Below are a few more pictures, enjoy:

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