There is a very select elite of people who have risen to the top of the few international 3D printing business giants - and there is an even more exclusive club of such individuals who can also be credited as the founders of the technologies these companies are built on.
This is what makes Scott Crump one of the most exciting additions to the TCT Show + Personalize speaker role call. Not only is Crump Chairman and Chief Innovation Officer of Stratasys, but he is the inventor of Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), a technique that has permeated the entire 3D printing and additive manufacturing industry. The expert is therefore going to discuss how 3D printing is expanding from prototyping into manufacturing when he takes to the stage, looking at how the technology is being used in the here and now, and how it could be applied to manufacturing in the longer term.
"There are two simultaneous trends in manufacturing with 3D printers," Crump explained, "Personal manufacturing with the maker movement and commercial manufacturing. I'll focus more on the commercial market. We'll look at how it is being used in manufacturing today, what we're likely to see in the near future and then what we may see a little farther down the road."
He added: "As more companies start producing end products with additive technologies, we'll see a fundamental shift in how things get made. Additive is quickly becoming a mainstream process. Helping drive this change will be the current generation of students who will enter the workforce thinking additive is just a normal production technique."
Crump is confident TCT Show + Personalise is a good place to voice these subjects thanks to its appeal to the European additive manufacturing industry. "TCT has always been the preeminent European show for additive technologies," he said. "It's good to see the show continue to expand and now to include the consumer market as well. TCT Show is the single most important annual show that includes attendees from all over Europe, dedicated exclusively to our industry."
Making 3D printing a household name
Stratasys made arguably the biggest 3D printing story of the year when it announced it was the mystery buyer acquiring MakerBot, a business deal that is naturally close to Crump's heart due to the instrumental role he played in the development of desktop 3D printing.
"The desktop 3D printer movement has helped our industry enormously by driving awareness. A few years ago, even some engineers hadn't heard of 3D printing. Consumer 3D printers and the media buzz surrounding them have made 3D printing almost a household name," he said.
"Of course the importance of this growing market was behind the MakerBot merger. To give some perspective to the size of the consumer/prosumer market, Stratasys sold about 30,000 3D printers during the 25-year period ending in 2012 (including Objet-installed 3D printers). MakerBot has sold more than 22,000 units between 2009 and the first half of 2013. Although the machines are much lower in price, the market growth is vastly larger."
Stratasys' foundations are firmly built in the industrial sector, but the MakerBot merger taps into this burgeoning desktop 3D printing market. "The weight is still behind the industrial market in terms of revenue and will be for some time, but if the desktop market continues to grow as it is, it will eventually overtake the industrial market in revenue. In terms of sales, the consumer/prosumer market is only a couple of years away from overtaking the industrial market."
Future products, patents and technologies
Stratasys is a familiar fixture at TCT Show and this year the company will be showcasing a sample of machines from all its product lines, including the Fortus, Objet Dimension, uPrint and Mojo. "We want to show how Stratasys is well-positioned to meet the needs of any 3D printing application," Crump remarked.
But the Chairman remained tight-lipped as to what exciting new developments the MakerBot deal will bring to the table and whether any of these would be present in Birmingham this month.
"We have just recently closed on the MakerBot deal," he said, "And have not yet held in depth discussions about products, roadmaps and strategy ... [but] will undoubtedly be looking at current and future products, technologies and synergistic leveraging of patents [in the future]."
And when it comes to patents, it is Crump's own that is still yielding plenty of business for Stratasys - and indeed its competitors.
He revealed: "Because of the patent time limit, Stratasys has always moved quickly to grow its market share and expand its technology with new innovation. With the expiration of our fundamental extrusion patent a few years ago, it opened the door to other companies to employ the extrusion process."
But Crump is proud that his invention has been so widely adopted. "I've heard there are over 100 machines now using a basic extrusion process like Fused Deposition Modelling. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I think that having so many companies want to imitate our process does show there's something inherently valuable businesswise about this type of process."
Crump's place in the 3D printing archives is certain, but like all inventors, his mind is firmly focused on the future of the industry he has helped to shape.
"I think we'll see more 3D printing used in the manufacturing process for low-volume runs and end use parts, including areas of medical, injection moulding, manufacturing, consumer goods and electronics.
"Today is it largely already adopted in the dental industry. The value of 3D printing in the manufacturing process is so significant, an injection moulding process that takes hours versus weeks of lead time to get a mould, and the amount of metal material versus 3D printing material is huge – the difference is not only in the time and money saved, but also in the amount of waste."
Scott Crump will be keynoting at TCT Show + Personalize on Thursday September 26th.