Effective as of September 4, 2023, UltiMaker, a global front-runner in desktop 3D printing solutions, welcomed Michiel Alting von Geusau as its new Chief Executive Officer. The company was formed last year following a merger between Ultimaker and MakerBot, both pioneers and former rivals in the 3D printing industry. Alting von Geusau takes over from Nadav Goshen, who stepped down to pursue new opportunities.
To learn more, we spoke to Alting von Geusau, who seems well-positioned to steer the company into its next phase. His extensive background in leading technology firms and managing acquisitions sets a promising course for UltiMaker, as it seeks to ensure its position as a leader in the additive manufacturing (AM) sector.
A Conversation with the New CEO
Michiel Alting von Geusau shared insights about his career, leadership style, and vision for the future of UltiMaker. With a diverse career journey that took him from the Dutch Marines to becoming the Global President for the business unit Commerce and Lifecycle Services at Ingram Micro, Alting von Geusau brings a unique blend of experience to the table.
“I was a career officer in the Dutch Marines for 12 years. Then, I worked for Phillips and, afterwards, I worked for a stock-listed company, Docdata N.V. We were replicating CDs and DVDs, but I transformed that business into an e-commerce service provider, where we performed logistics, payments, website building, and, in the beginning, even e-marketing. That company was then sold to Ingram Micro, where I stayed on for seven years. In the end, I led their service commerce and logistics business, which was sold to CEVA Logistics for $3 billion,” Alting von Geusau said.
Despite what seems like the perfect background for the next stage of 3D printing, Michiel highlighted his leadership style as a more important asset:
“I believe that the people in your company are key. If you have the right people in your company, you can go anywhere. It doesn’t really matter where,” Alting von Geusau said. “The second [factor] is your clients. Why are you doing it? What are you bringing to the table? Can you grow together? UltiMaker is becoming more B2B. In that position, you have to ask how you can develop further with your clients. And that’s what I’ve done in my last roles. You develop your proposition more and more with your clients, and then if they are successful, you are successful.”
UltiMaker’s Challenges Ahead
Given that he has only been acting as CEO for a week, Alting von Geusau is in the process of better formulating his overall roadmap. As he does, there are some crucial issues UltiMaker has to tackle, one of which is the consolidation of the brand. The merger between Ultimaker and MakerBot created a portfolio of products with some overlap, causing a bit of brand fragmentation. This includes the fact that the company released a Method XL system and an UltiMaker S7 last year, both of which seemed to have emerged from the predecessor firms’ separate hardware teams.
Additionally, the desktop market has entered a new era in which cheaper machines are becoming outfitted with more professional features. This trend, led by Bambu Lab, means that machine operators can print parts very rapidly in a user-friendly manner. Because Ultimaker and MakerBot, separately, have typically occupied a higher end of the market, where user-friendliness, repeatability, and predictability were key, the new company will have to learn how to adequately meet the challenge of lower priced competitors that might offer some of the same professional features.
“All of our people and the market should feel that we’re one company. People shouldn’t talk about Ultimaker or MakerBot, but talk about one company. That also means that, in the future, we should have integrated product lines,” Alting von Geusau said. “I’m also aware of the many entrants, especially some on the low end based in China. I do believe that we have better quality, certainly for users who use the system longer. But it is something we have to keep working on to stay ahead of the pack. And I’m not sure if we should compete completely in the low end.”
Alting von Geusau said that he would be laying out his overall strategy over the next three months.
“I will use my first a hundred days to really get to know the market, the people, the company, and so forth. Of course, I’m already forming a plan going forward for the next phase of UltiMaker. And, then looking forward, three to five years. So, I’m really in the analytical phase at the moment and will put my vision down in within 100 days.”
A Unique Time for UltiMaker
Though Michiel was modest about the need to quickly immerse himself in the world of AM to understand the market in its entirety, his background is surprisingly applicable to the current state of the sector. While the focus of the segment at large has been about the process of industrializing 3D printing technology for mass production environments, there is an even more important, wider-sweeping trend taking place: the re-shoring of production.
Due to a confluence of factors—increased energy prices and less bountiful access to fossil fuels, climate change, natural resource depletion, and supply chain disruptions—nations and corporations the world over are attempting to institute a form of supply chain insurance that can be executed in the most energy efficient and sustainable way possible. Often leading the charge, particularly in the U.S., are military divisions, who are well-versed in supply chain management and improvisational techniques.
Therefore, Alting von Geusau’s history with the Dutch Marines will likely serve him well, especially since the Dutch and French militaries, among others, are already UltiMaker users. This, when compounded with his work in logistics and data, would presumably give him the ideal birds-eye view for steering the ship forward in a time when those factors are critical to the adoption of 3D printing for energy-efficient, supply chain resilience.
Despite being new to AM, he is taking over the right company at the right time and in the right place. Not only have Ultimaker and MakerBot separately found widespread adoption by key users, but UltiMaker’s headquarters in the Netherlands situates it in a key location for the future.
ASML, located just 72 km (45 miles) away, is the only manufacturer of extreme ultraviolet lithography equipment for the production of semiconductors. As discussed in our two-part PRO series on the relationship between 3D printing and semiconductors, these two sectors are becoming increasingly symbiotic, with ASML incorporating over 200 parts (mostly metal, but some polymer) into its equipment. If Volkswagen is using UltiMaker systems for improvised tooling on its assembly lines and the Dutch military is deploying them on the front lines, there’s no reason ASML shouldn’t be relying on them for the front lines of the chip wars.
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