After spinning a promising technology out of a Northwestern University lab, Azul 3D, Inc was poised to conquer the world of vat photopolymerization (VP). Its high area rapid printing (HARP) process is capable of producing enormous parts at breakneck speeds using materials that competing VP techniques just aren’t capable of printing. However, the Chicagoland startup has been slow to get out the gate.
Outside of some high-profile customers and investors, including Wilson Sporting Goods and DuPont, Azul’s promising Lake 3D printers have yet to make the splash that was expected. Instead, the company operated under three different CEOs in 2021 alone. Its Chief Revenue Officer, Tuan Trampham, recently left, as well. No new customers nor capital raises have been announced in some time.
The newest CEO to take the reins from Cody Petersen, who served as vice president of product development and manufacturing before taking over the company in 2021, is John Hartner. Hartner is an additive manufacturing (AM) industry veteran, having begun his career as Rockwell Automation before ultimately leading Dover Corporation. His start in 3D printing began at VP leader EnvisionTEC, where he was a board member and COO. Hartner then left EnvisionTEC to become CEO of metal binder jetting firm ExOne.
Upon overseeing the sale of ExOne to Desktop Metal, Hartner has continued to operate in the industry as a syndicate partner of AM investing group 3D Ventures, run by the former chairman of 3D Systems, Wally Loewenbaum; Solid Concepts founder and current Evolve Additive CEO Joe Allison, alongside Reg Hargrove and Hugh Evans.
Additionally, Hartner’s investment firm, Digital Industrialist, has directed funding to AM companies, including axial3D, Culinary Printworks, Authentise, Additive Innovations, and even Azul. In that way, Hartner has gone from investing in the startup to taking it over, mirroring a similar move by his colleague, Joe Allison, whose 3D Ventures went from investing in Evolve before Allison became its CEO.
A representative from Azul 3D told 3DPrint.com that the company had planned to formally announce the appointment of Hartner as interim CEO later this summer, as well as some of the specific plans the firm has in store. The representative reassured us that the company is financially solid and may unveil new customers in the summer, as well. In that way, the appointment is meant to signal a new period of evolution for Azul 3D.
Given the current economic environment, in which companies may be struggling to find new investments or customers willing to take risks on new technologies, it’s necessary for small businesses like Azul to take important steps to keep up. Even some of the industry’s largest players have found themselves in unique situations financially. Hopefully the appointment of Hartner is just such a step for Azul.
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