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  2. 3D printing business evolves at Stratasys

3D printing business evolves at Stratasys

As 3D printing evolves, the market leader, Stratasys, adapts new strategies. The company business units focus on vertical market industries and the company technology is oriented around the design-to-manufacturing process.

Stratasys focuses on the 3 stages of product design to manufacturing: concept design, rapid-prototyping, & manufactured parts

Eric Bredin describes the business focus at Stratasys in this video from the 3D Print Show 2015 in Paris.   The company re-structured it's business efforts to orient and align Stratasys with specialized, vertical industry markets. This is recognition that 3D printing may seem like a horizontally-oriented technology, the company's customers and the way to approach their business requirements for 3D printing technologies are significantly different between vertical markets. Simply put, the demands of a client in automotive differ from one in education. A client in the healthcare industry has different issues and needs from one in consumer product design. 

Partnerships make a difference in the Stratasys eco-system

M. Bredin talks about the Stratasys eco-system and the importance of making the printed object reflect as closely the design intent of the engineer or designer - and to make that capability as easy as possible. To that end, the company has invested in partnerships - over years - with software companies such as Adobe.

At Adobe Max 2015, Stratasys announced a collaboration with Adobe to make the production of colorful 3D printed objects. The current cooperation allows Photoshop users to submit designs directly from their Photoshop environment for printing using the Stratasys Direct Manufacturing service. The two companies attempt to eliminate unnecessary manual steps and to provide many necessary functions in an automated environment. These functions include generating quotations for the print-job, validation of the design for 3D printing, and, naturally, previewing the expected result. 

This strategy extends the eco-system development done in 2014. At the end of last year, Stratasys announced "push-button" 3D printing from partner applications such as Photoshop for creative professionals and such as PTC Creo for 3D engineering design and development. 

The eco-system developments are critical because they apply to all three areas of product design to manufacturing which M. Bredin  explains are the Stratasys focus of attacking 3D printing uses within each vertical market segment. Those areas are conceptual design, design verification, and manufacturing.

In the conceptual design phase, a team often needs multiple variations of first design ideas and needs them rapidly. For small teams and offices, a Mojo printer or even a less expensive Objet printer can do the job.

Later in the design verification phase, stiffer requirements apply and can include greater accuracy, multiple material and multiple color models, or larger print-envelopes for proto-types. Last but not least, manufacturing applications in 3D printing are growing fast for Stratasys. One application is in the manufacturing site itself with 3D printing permitting companies to optimize the manufacturing process and accelerate line changes. Another area of growth is more and more in manufacturing for unique to low volume to medium volume production parts. 

The latter two areas can be found in the Le Mans racing car on display. Areas critical to aerodynamics were tested in wind-tunnels using 3D printed parts and later the final, verified parts, were manufactured via traditional methods. Other parts were simply printed for direct use in the car. These include the relatively simple piece for mounting the on-car camera to the more significant designed part, the cockpit console panel

Finally, in addition to focusing their technology on these three critical product development steps, Stratasys has focused their teams on vertical market segments. This has entailed an investment in industry experts from specific vertical industry markets such as healthcare and automotive. 

3D printing has suffered in 2015, but the advances continue

Stratasys and the rest of the 3D printing industry has experienced several quarters of weakness in worldwide markets. The company recently pre-announced disappointing expected revenue numbers. And while that is disappointing to investors, the prospects for the company's customers look quite bright due to the possibilities opening up through 3D printing advances.   The company continues to enhance their abilities in materials, services, and products and each improvement opens more opportunities for customers to reap the advantages of additive manufacturing.