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INTERVIEW: Joseph Crabtree, CEO, AMT, Scaling Additive Manufacturing

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To grasp the industrialization of 3D printing, I spoke to Joseph Crabtree, founder and CEO of AMT, who, with its post-processing options, is well-positioned to look at how additive manufacturing is scaling up.

“For us to take ourselves severely as an business and have that massive breakthrough, we must be thought-about critical amongst conventional manufacturing firms,” argues AMT founder Joseph Crabtree with attribute frankness. In that future, merchandise don’t want the qualifier “3D printed” — in the identical means, we don’t gush over vehicles being “stamped out of steel” or pc screens being injection molded. “Nobody cares it’s 3D printed proper now,” Crabtree states. “You speak about your Tesla; you don’t discuss concerning the specifics.”

AMT has gone from a Sheffield-based start-up to a world operation in a comparatively quick timeframe. Like many within the business, the corporate is experiencing the fall-out from a gradual begin to 2023.

Crabtree delved deep into the consequences of the current financial downturn on the 3D printing business. “There’s a notable softening of the business, extended by international recession and a notable slowdown in gross sales cycles,” he observes. After navigating by way of tumultuous durations like COVID-19 and international provide chain disruptions, Crabtree reveals a silver lining: “Our income was doubling, if not tripling, reaching roughly 12-13 million Euros.”

But, regardless of this obvious success, there are clouds on the business’s horizon. Manufacturing forecasts predicted a turbulent first half of the yr, and whereas the state of affairs is bettering, provide chain points nonetheless persist. Consolidation strikes are ongoing within the 3D printing business, with Desktop Steel, Stratasys, and 3D Programs merger exercise but to be finalized. 

There may be additionally a normal discount in industrial 3D printer gross sales; Crabtree muses, “Persons are shopping for much less capital gear. There’s much less capital accessible, particularly as many are taking out loans to purchase these printers.”

Acknowledging these considerations, his agency launched into a decisive path of restructuring. A vital quote from Crabtree illustrates their motivation: “We will’t simply let the business dynamics lead the place we’re going to be as a enterprise.” This led to substantial shifts, together with headcount reductions and honing in on their core providing of chemical vapor smoothing.

At this level, I needed to be aware the seemingly old school concept of aiming for profitability at the present time. Crabtree’s response was telling: “In case you stroll round Formnext, you marvel what number of of those firms are literally producing a revenue. It’s in all probability like three or 4 out of all these a whole lot.” Attaining profitability is certainly one of AMT’s main goals within the quick time period. 

Regardless of the broader business woes, Crabtree stays optimistic concerning the know-how’s demand. His assertion? The demand for 3D printing isn’t diminishing. As a substitute, “Persons are utilizing their printers to 3D print extra issues, however they’re simply not shopping for extra bodily printers due to the excessive value.”

He notes an attention-grabbing transition: firms in search of automation options reasonably than new machine purchases. This shift means fewer machine gross sales however opens alternatives for upscaling in automation and elevated consumable utilization.

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AMT and Oechsler's automated end-to-end post-processing cell. Image via AMT.AMT and Oechsler’s automated end-to-end post-processing cell. Picture by way of AMT.

3D Printing’s Path to Scale

However there’s no escaping the uncertainty pervading the business, particularly with the continued mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Crabtree ponders on the ramifications, “What affect does all the M&A exercise have on firms in post-processing, software program, or materials house? Does it make it higher? Does it make it worse?”

Crabtree furthers this commentary, “3D Programs and Stratasys changing into one firm raises sure questions… even the M&A component doesn’t essentially yield clear outcomes or readability.” This sentiment underscores the problem of predicting the business’s trajectory.

Furthermore, Crabtree emphasizes that companies in post-processing, reasonably than counting on Authentic Gear Producers (OEMs), should “drive our personal future and future.” His assertion – to change into “market makers reasonably than market takers” – highlights the necessity for these firms to create added worth for his or her clients.

When prodded about how one may transition from market ‘taker’ to ‘maker,’ Crabtree’s critique of 3D printer producers is revealing. The shiny adverts, he says, depict 3D printers as miraculous gadgets, however the actuality is starkly completely different, stuffed with extra steps of sanding and ending. “No printer OEM really sells you an answer,” Crabtree factors out, emphasizing the business’s want to offer complete options, not simply items of the puzzle.

Shifting the dialog to scalability, I requested concerning the business’s progress in producing precise merchandise. Crabtree identifies a number of promising sectors, together with the medical discipline, the place customization is vital. He touches on service bureaus, client items, collectibles, and industrial segments as properly however aptly highlights the ever-elusive automotive sector, the place 3D printing has but to succeed in scale for inside parts.

Delving deeper, Crabtree mentions partnerships with massive motor firms like Normal Motors and Ford, noting purposes in door seals, as an example. He underscores the business’s progress, from batches of tens to a whole lot of hundreds, but highlights the hole between 3D printing and conventional manufacturing methods like CNC machining and injection molding.

In a sobering comparability, Crabtree says the 3D printing business, regardless of its huge potential, nonetheless lags behind particular market sizes for merchandise like AirPods and even avocados. Certainly, Apple’s AirPod income and the avocado market are each within the area of $14 billion. Nearer to the 3D printing business, an organization utilizing 3D printing as a part of their workflow, Align Expertise, has a market cap of $25 billion, higher than all the business. Crabtree factors out the significance of transferring from product provision to providing holistic options. A easy pivot, it appears, that brings a few vital ‘worth add’ to the shopper.

AMT’s PostPro SF100 system’s user interface. Photo via AMT.AMT’s PostPro SF100 system’s consumer interface. Picture by way of AMT.

Additive Manufacturing at a Tipping Level

But, the journey to this transformation isn’t freed from its bumps. Crabtree highlights the ache factors of the business. From considerations about machine reliability to the usually convoluted decision-making course of for selecting 3D printers, the challenges are myriad. It’s like being overwhelmed in a tech retailer, uncertain if the most recent gadget will nonetheless be related in a number of years.

Publish-processing, a step after printing, is commonly deemed a bridge to the way forward for 3D printing. However what makes AMT stand out in a crowd of post-processing companies? Crabtree factors in the direction of their distinctive benefit: their twin functionality in know-how and IP growth. This dynamism, he explains, permits them to supply the “subsequent value-add degree of options,” primarily taking the printing know-how, automating it, and presenting a packaged resolution to clients.

Nevertheless, whereas AMT has a powerful array of choices, Crabtree admits there’s nonetheless a technique to go. The necessity of the hour? A “Lighthouse resolution” is a guiding gentle that may clearly outline the suitable utility of every tech. 

A regularly mentioned matter inside the business is sustainability. How does it issue into AMT’s ethos and the broader post-processing panorama? Crabtree gives a refreshing perspective, noting the push in the direction of environmentally sound options. He parallels the rising demand for GPU chips in AI, emphasizing how AMT is pivoting to make sure that the consumables they use stay forward of legislative modifications and are environmentally pleasant.

Whereas 3D printing as soon as promised a revolution, firms should reorient themselves. It isn’t simply concerning the product anymore. It’s about delivering options that echo the calls for of customers, assembly them the place they’re reasonably than pushing a story of tech disruption. AMT appears to be on the suitable path, however solely time will inform how these modifications sculpt the panorama of 3D printing.

The main target ought to shift from the technique of manufacturing to the worth of the tip product. If a canine could be aided with a prosthetic leg or a automotive is upgraded with a brand new part for higher effectivity, why ought to the truth that it was 3D printed be the focus? The narrative ought to heart on innovation, performance, and transformative potential reasonably than the novelty of the manufacturing course of.

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Featured picture exhibits Joseph Crabtree CEO and Founder AMT. Picture by way of AMT.



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