In the following video, 3D printing specialist Steve Heller interviews Fred Fischer, Stratasys' (NASDAQ:SSYS) director of Fused Deposition Modeling and PolyJet applications, about the company's latest 3D printing developments during last month's EuroMold 2014, the world's largest 3D printing conference held in Frankfurt, Germany.
Topics covered include:
- Stratasys' newest products
- The importance of higher throughput
- Stratasys' position in the aerospace industry
- Consumer 3D printing adoption growth
- Hewlett-Packard's entrance into the space.
A full transcript follows the video.
Steve Heller: Steve Heller here. I'm joined today with Fred Fischer. He's the director of Fused Deposition Modeling and PolyJet applications at Stratasys. Thank you so much for being with us today, Fred.
Let's talk about EuroMold. Obviously, this is the conference where everything happens. How do you feel about this year's EuroMold, and what were some of the most surprising things that you've seen this year?
Fred Fischer: EuroMold for us represents one of the most important trade shows and events in our industry per year.
Every year I think one of the things that we're both proud of and impressed and slightly surprised about is really the overall turnout, the amount of attention that additive manufacturing is getting in comparison to all of the other technologies and items that are on display at EuroMold.
This year represents yet another step-function change in the amount of people, and I'll say overall interest, in our industry.
To me, if I had to say what's -- maybe it's surprising, but it's yet a continuation of a trend that we've seen before -- are the amount of prospects, or the amount of market that comes to us that already understands 3D printing to some extent, but maybe they don't understand all of the details and all the full capabilities.
That's really what we're here to help them understand, is how we can help them apply additive manufacturing and have a meaningful impact on their business, today.
Heller: Your CEO, David Reis, said 70% of your products are being turned over. That's an incredible figure, so I was wondering if you could walk me through some of those new product releases and what this all means for the future of Stratasys.
Fischer: Sure, no problem. Our core value at Stratasys is we believe that we're changing people's lives by revolutionizing the way things are made. All of our [3D printing] products in our portfolio, both our systems and materials, are really aimed at making that happen.
The new products that we've shown both here at EuroMold and we'll show through the coming 2015 year, are really aimed at maximizing the width and the amplitude in which we do that to the marketplace, helping us accelerate our ability to change people's lives or change how profoundly we do that, both from a personal and a business perspective.
On display here today are the products that we've launched. We've launched both the Eden 30 Prime system, which brings an unparalleled versatility at a desktop price point, so a very broad spectrum of our most high-value and utilized materials in our PolyJet portfolio, brought to the marketplace at a desktop price point.
[And] the Connex line -- the Connex technology or the unique ability to jet simultaneously three different materials together in a single part -- that technology, which we've launched previously, now we've really dramatically expanded that to a total of nine different products: three products in our Connex 260 chassis category, three in the 350, and three in the 500 category.
Why that's important to the marketplace is it enables higher accessibility or easier accessibility to that Connex capability, to a much broader segment in the marketplace. We've made it more affordable, but also given a wider range of capabilities to the marketplace.
In addition to that, we've also expanded our FDM [fused deposition modeling] portfolio, or FDM product line. Today, here in Europe, we're announcing the launch of the Fortus 380 and the Fortus 450. Both are products that are aimed at expanding or extending our reach into the manufacturing space and into the high-requirements prototyping space.
We've increased the system throughput up to 20%. We've also very much focused on the reliability of the output of those systems, making them much more dependable for both prototyping applications, but also specifically for manufacturing applications.
Last and absolutely not least is increasing the ease of use, or making it easier for the entire engineering or design team to utilize and access the printer, versus let's say a specialized or trained operator.
Heller: Talk me through, really quick: Obviously higher throughput is a good thing -- faster is better, everyone says. But the nuances behind the scenes, for people that maybe aren't as familiar with the technology: Why is higher throughput so important?
Fischer: There's a variety of reasons why throughput is important. On the design side of the application space, we believe that faster throughput enables more iterations in the design. The more iterations a designer can make on their design, we believe, and have proven, results in an improved product, just like anything else in life.
That's really the primary reason in the design space, is speed equals more iterations, more iterations equals an improved product.
On the manufacturing side, speed also has an implication on the overall cost of the end product itself.
When our customers are calculating the cost to produce a part, generally they're calculating not only the cost of the material, but they're also depreciating or amortizing the cost of the printer in that model, so the faster they can produce a part, the less amortization cost in the model. This helps us reduce the overall cost of the model, and thus enables [our products] to be used in more prototyping, but also specifically in more manufacturing-related applications as well.
On the surface, it is about getting parts faster, but there are more profound impacts the business has as a result of increased throughput.
Heller: We're standing right next to a jet fuselage. I wonder if you could talk to me a little bit more about this, and what's going on here.
Fischer: What this is for us is what we call our application and technology showcase. In this aircraft, we are representing how additive manufacturing [3D printing] is used throughout the design, through manufacturing space.
Inside here we have examples of concept models that are used just to test the form and fitment of various components, primarily for the plastic components inside of this airline theater, but also we have parts that have been printed in durable thermoplastic materials that show how we can be used for functional testing -- not just testing form and fit, but the functionality of the design as well.
In addition to that, we also show many of the manufacturing-related applications. The metal legs of the actual seat mechanism, that's been created via a sand-casting process, and the master pattern from that sand cast was actually made with a [Statasys] PolyJet pattern.
It highlights that when the direct output from our technology can't meet the application need of the customer, very frequently we help them get to a part that does have the properties of either metal, composites, or plastic by indirectly creating it -- in other words, creating a tool to get them to the final product.
That's three out of the four things you see here. Finally, we show a number of examples in the upper part of the fuselage. On the walls, you'll see the panels that were printed in ULTEM material [a resin] from the FDM technology, as well as in the upper chaseway there's HVAC ducting or airflow ducting, as well as clips that mount and organize the wires.
These are examples of how our technology is being used as a final, finished good or an end-use part in the aerospace industry.
Heller: That was my next question. What is Stratasys' role currently in the aerospace industry? Is it going beyond testing prototypes and figuring out functioning models? Is it actually flying in the skies?
Fischer: Without a doubt. Aerospace represents one of the most strategic verticals to Stratasys, and we absolutely have traction in that marketplace.
Today, as you mentioned, we're being used not only for prototyping-related applications -- form and fitment -- both in the military as well as the commercial space, but also finished goods or manufacturing-related applications, so either directly producing a part and being used in the product, or indirectly producing a tool or a pattern that gets them to a part with the final properties that they need.
That's happening today all the way from unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] through commercial airliners or commercial jets that have passengers in them. In general, where we fit best are where the requirements are low to moderate and the volumes are relatively low.
In a commercial airliner, the examples that we're showing here of the ducting in the ceiling and the electrical clips are great examples of where we're used in the commercial space. They're noncritical flight components, sometimes that are hidden behind the panels in the fuselage.
On the other end of the spectrum, on the UAV end of the spectrum, we actually have companies who are directly printing many of the flight-critical components for the UAV on a 3D printer or production system, and then putting that vehicle into service. We really span that entire range or gamut, if you would
Heller: That's quite a bit, actually. Looking at the consumer trend of 3D printing, to kind of switch gears here, when do you think the consumer will start adopting 3D printing more wholeheartedly? Is it going to be through a RedEye [3D printing] service bureau sort of setting, or is it more through the MakerBot setting, or is that more geared toward small businesses looking to produce cheap, early-stage prototypes?
Fischer: I think our answer would be "All of the above." One of our strategic initiatives at Stratasys is to increase the accessibility of 3D printing. That's a very broad statement that means many things to many different people.
One, it's driving the price point down, or making 3D printing more accessible, but also it's making the process or the work flow much easier for more average people or more average consumers, who aren't necessarily trained in the technology to design parts, to actually produce parts using 3D printing or additive manufacturing.
When you ask about when the consumer will wholeheartedly adopt it, we already see some of that happening today. Many of the different decisions that Stratasys has made -- the acquisition of MakerBot and some of the partnerships that we're doing with some of our workflow partners -- are all aimed at increasing the accessibility of 3D printing to help drive both the commercial end of the segment, making it easier for them to adopt and utilize 3D printing, as well as the consumer segment of the marketplace.
Heller: At The Motley Fool, we're very business-focused investors. We're not concerned with next quarter what your results are going to be, we're concerned about where the ship is going to be in the next five or 10 years.
I was wondering if you could give an overview of where you think the company is going and why you're on board.
Fischer: Overall, the core value that we state is we are shaping people's lives by revolutionizing the way things are made. That happens throughout the entire spectrum of our business, from the most entry-level elements to our business, all the way up to the highest-performance [3D printing] systems that we offer.
We see growth in nearly all of the segments in the marketplace, and we have both our general market as well as our vertical business focused on accelerating and driving that growth.
At Stratasys, we see vertical markets as being very strategic to our overall growth, those segments being the aerospace and automotive industries, medical, education, and dental, being some very specific verticals with very specific needs that we have our company, or elements of our company, focusing on accelerating the adoption of 3D printing.
The rest of the market [industry] is generally handled by what we call our General Market Team, and they're handling the rest of the marketplace, again trying to drive that adoption with the broader commercial and, to some extent, the broader consumer segment as well.
Heller: I have one more bonus question for you, if you don't mind. I was wondering if you can comment on the recent developments with Hewlett-Packard's Multi Jet Fusion coming out sometime maybe late 2016. We don't really have a target date, target price, we just know it's fast relative to today's technology.
Obviously, there's ample time for competitors, Stratasys included, to ramp up their capabilities against that. I was wondering, [if you could give] just an overview of what Stratasys is thinking at this point.
Fischer: Clearly, at Stratasys we're very focused internally on maximizing the capability and the value that our products bring.
We have a very, very large segment of our company that's focused on doing that organic growth, or maximizing the organic growth that we have by the products that we produce and put into the marketplace. Clearly, we keep an eye on the competition.
Specifically, how we view each of our competitors, maybe that's not necessarily so relevant. Are we keeping an eye on HP? Absolutely. They're certainly a player to watch, and we respect the brand that they bring and the capability they may bring.
But again, today we're very focused on maximizing the value that we deliver with our own organic portfolio, and helping the marketplace adopt and get value from 3D printing and additive manufacturing.
Heller: Thank you so much for your time today, Fred. We really appreciate it.
Fischer: Thank you, pleasure.
Steve Heller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Stratasys. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.