Education remains important as additive manufacturing booms

Research released this month has shown additive manufacturing/3D printing grew by more than a third in 2013. Ido Eylon from Stratasys told Brent Balinski about why the figures were no surprise, as well as what areas are important to his company and why.

 

“I am not surprised at all that it grew, and I’m not surprised that it grew significantly,” answered Ido Eylon, the general manager for Asia South for Stratasys, when asked about reports that his industry grew by over a third last year.

Eylon, who spoke to Manufacturers’ Monthly during National Manufacturing Week, handles South Asia for the additive manufacturing and 3D printing solutions giant.

Though he points out not all the reports tracking additive manufacturing’s increased demand compare the same things, the seemingly incredible figures for the closely-watched Wohlers Report 2014, released earlier this month, were no shock for Stratasys.

Wohlers’ Associates’ research found that the global demand for products and services increased 34.9 per cent to $US 3.07 billion last for 2013, the highest growth in the report’s 17 years.

For Stratasys – which Eylon joined by way of the company’s merger with Israel’s Objet – the increase in orders for its suite of personal and industrial offerings has been similarly meteoric.

Revenues for the company’s first quarter were up by nearly a third compared to last year (before taking into account their acquisition of desktop 3D printer company MakerBot), beating market expectations.

And as the head of the company’s APJ operations Jonathan Jaglom told this magazine earlier in the year, this region has displayed the most rapid increase in demand for any in the world.

In Australia, demand is sharp across a number of industries.

“These would be defence, aerospace, medical; and education is a very important driver for our business in Australia,” explained Eylon.

“I always like to say that education, from a business standpoint, is not only the present, but also the future.”

Eylon’s education was in biomedical engineering at Ben Gurion University. From there he joined Objet – which Stratasys merged with in 2012 – the patent-holder for PolyJet additive manufacturing technology working in application engineering and pre-sales roles.

He moved to Cambridge in the United States to help Stratasys educate its North American market, with examples of his work including helping MIT graduate students with a 3D printed synthetic bone application. Medical solutions continue to be of interest – a recent case study the company is proud of is the creation of dentistry surgical guides through an Objet machine in Singapore.

Eylon describes dentistry as a “key focus market” for the company, with a printer adopted into a clinic’s workflow being a massive time saver in surgeries.

Eylon has been in his current role for about three months, and in Australia as in other parts of his purview, education is proving another continuously relevant area of focus.

“From a business standpoint, it’s not only the present, but also the future,” he explained.

“An engineer or somebody who got some engineering training as a student and was exposed to the benefits of 3D printing or additive manufacturing, later on as an engineer-in-practise, is going to look for the same benefits as a young professional.

“That’s why I think it is a very, very important activity and it’s a very, very important market for us.”

Part of the education process involves designing for manufacturing, with previous constraints posed by designing for machining or moulding removed.

For some engineers/designers who have had to create with these constraints in mind, it can take a little adjustment when additive manufacturing is introduced.

As Avi Reichenthal, CEO of Stratasys’s major rival 3D Systems, pointed out in a recent interview, the freedom of design offered by 3D printing can take some getting used to.

“You can’t create complex shapes because you can’t form them, bend them, injection mould them, machine them, and so you spend years learning all of the things that you cannot do in the name of conforming to traditional manufacturing methods,” he told Boing Boing recently.

“Those are the very lessons that we have to unlearn in order to fully unleash the potential of the freedom of creation and the free complexity that comes with 3D printing.”

Part of education involves universities, but another side of it is at expos, such as at NMW – where Stratasys sponsored the event’s inaugural Additive Manufacturing product zone – and at the Inside 3D Printing conference series as it makes its first visit to Australia in July.

Like everyone else who sponsors an event, promotion is a reason. But Eylon believes it’s also a matter of responsibility to be involved in trade shows.

“As the leader of the additive manufacturing industry, which is how we see ourselves, there’s a lot of responsibility,” he explained, before adding that there was also a duty to counter what is often a lot of unhelpful news reports.

“We see ourselves, as leaders, as having the responsibility to educate the market and make sure that the right message is out there,” said Eylon.

Within Australia, as with elsewhere, there is a definite shift towards additive manufacturing (or digital direct manufacturing), though rapid prototyping is still of course still very popular.

Wohlers’ report found 34.7 per cent of all product and service revenues in the industry were from end-use parts last year, up from 2012’s 28.3 per cent.

“There is some movement towards that, obviously this is very interesting, both for us and for the customers that are pursuing this solution,” said Eylon.

“Because it has so many advantages over traditional manufacturing; when it makes sense. And it doesn’t always make sense.”

The company gets many questions about “whether additive manufacturing is going to replace traditional manufacturing on the whole at some point,” he said.

Of course it will not, or at least no time soon, but “there are some things being done today in a way that additive manufacturing can easily replace, and be more efficient, sometimes cheaper, sometimes faster, actually most of the time a lot faster,” said Eylon.

“And there are so many benefits – some of which we are talking about. Lightweighting and things like that, freedom of geometry, very significant advantages [are possible] with additive manufacturing.” 

 

Image credits

 

Dental image: www.timesofisrael.com