AM Investment Strategies
AMS Spring 2023

Looking to Dominate Medical 3D Printing, Formlabs Appoints President of Healthcare

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From Kickstarter to a president of Healthcare, it has been a heady journey for professional desktop 3D printing company Formlabs. The company announced that Guillaume Bailliard is to be its new president of Healthcare. Bailliard was formerly at GE Healthcare and leading roles at medical companies, specifically in imaging. He will lead both the dental and healthcare units at Formlabs.

The company discloses that it has sold over 25,000 printers to the medical sector, with a goal of leading it altogether by serving medical device makers, clinicians and patients better. Bailliard speaks to this point, saying: “3D printing in health care is an exciting opportunity that can streamline workflows, enable precision healthcare, and improve patient outcomes. Formlabs has been at the forefront of this innovation, with solutions that have enabled the industry to capture the benefits of 3D printing technology. I’m thrilled to lead Formlabs’ growth in the medical and dental industries.”

Formlabs CEO Max Lobovsky also chimed in, noting: “Formlabs is a driving force inadvancing 3D printing adoption in the healthcare sector, pioneering materials and solutions that enable the industry to innovate and improve patient care. Recognizing that medical and dental applications present unique opportunities for providers to adopt and implement this technology, Formlabs has appointed Guillaume to spearhead our strategic growth in this category. With his background working with healthcare leaders as well as early-stage startups, Guillaume can address the unique challenges of advancing Formlabs’ 3D printing in these markets.”

Formlabs Success in Medical 3D Printing

Through the development of specialty, FDA-approved materials for dental use accompanied by its vat photopolymerization dental printers, the company became very successful in that segment. Beyond dental, the company has created biocompatible and application-specific resins, as well. Its professional machines have also expanded in applications such as the production of prosthetics, medical models, and surgical planning. The Formlabs Fuse 1, a polymer powder bed fusion (PBF) machine, can be used to make models that enable greater possibilities for medical applications. This is particularly true in orthotics and orthopedics through the creation of flexible, tough parts that better fit prosthetics to patients.

Formlabs’ very Apple-like offering focuses on control over the experience, appealing to users who simply want to 3D print parts. With its photopolymer machines, highly detailed models can be made on a printer with a tight form factor. Moreover, the firm still offers the best software in the 3D printing industry, with the most ¨one-click¨ workflow and the highest ease-of-use I have yet to come across. With its focus on the whole user experience, Formlabs is destined to be a good choice for clinicians, dental labs and dentists.

A model made with Formlabs’ new Model Resin formula. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

The Possible In-Hospital Struggle for Formlabs

Vat photopolymerization systems, such as those made by Formlabs, have an edge in providing greater detail for surgical models. More expensive inkjet systems, such as PolyJet from Stratasys, can add color into the mix. However, the use of photopolymers in both inkjet and vat photopolymerization can cause skin sensitization. Meanwhile, PBF printers, like the Fuse 1, often spread powder everywhere, potentially leading to issues with inhaling powder or even an explosion due to material flammability. Therefore, hospitals see material extrusion as a safer technology.

For now, many hospitals turn to material extrusion machines for in-facility use. This includes those from Orion AM, Vshaper, Apium, and 3D Systems, who all offer hospital-specific 3D printers, while Ultimakers, though not designed specifically for a clinical setting, are also often found in healthcare environments.

Anatomical models 3D printed with Formlabs equipment. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Formlabs Poised to Win Competitive Healthcare Segment

In total, SmarTech suggests that medical devices alone will deliver $509 million in revenues, and will likely reach $996 million by 2030, as detailed in its Medical Devices 2021: Market Opportunities for 3D Prosthetics, Orthotics and Audiology Devices report. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, SmarTech projected in the its sixth edition of its Additive Manufacturing in Dentistry report  that dental 3D printing was expected to reach $3.1 billion in 2021.

Due to the issues mentioned above, Formlabs may have a bit of an uphill struggle. However, in having an experienced healthcare focus and leader, it bests other 3D printer companies. It seems like our industry is asleep when it comes to healthcare. We’ve gone from no printers in hospitals to hundreds of facilities deploying 3D printers worldwide. Many orthotics and prosthetics companies are relying on AM to make prosthetics, as well—a segment that is growing very quickly.

Dental will be an extremely competitive segment, as more clinicians and labs deploy a plethora of dental printers for the full gamut of applications, from aligners to restorations. Many companies are piling into the dental polymer market, too many. And the machines range from $500 to $300,000 in price, with a breath of different configurations, materials, and strategies. Many parties are betting on integrated offerings for software, printers, and materials or even printers alone. With dental as competitive as it is, this will be a difficult place to make money, despite the sectors high growth. Through superior branding and execution, Formlabs could still win in vat photopolymerization against Asiga and others.

Meanwhile, the healthcare segment is wide open. Hardly anyone is working on obtaining the proper certifications, training, and materials for hospitals and medical device firms. This is a significant unmet opportunity that Formlabs is now able to outmatch in almost all comers. Winning in medical could see Formlabs gain an entranced market for perpetuity, while everyone else stands by trying to sell a printer to Volkswagen.

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