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Via Stratasys Corporate Flickr
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Via Stratasys Corporate Flickr
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Via Stratasys Corporate Flickr
Leading 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys was never going to miss out on exhibiting at International CES 2014's first ever dedicated 3D Printing TechZone, especially after what a year the company has had.
TCT Magazine spoke to Executive Vice-President of Marketing at Stratasys Jon Cobb, who will be attending the Las Vegas show from January 7th-10th next month, about what the industry giant has in store and how far 3D printing has come in the time he has been involved in this emerging technology.
"I've been in this industry for 19 years and for the first 15 nobody really cared about 3D printing," he admitted. "But now you have the interest and exposure and all the hype that goes on around this industry. It's a lot of fun compared to what it was before and you've got to be happy getting this type of attention."
Stratasys, Cobb said, would be manning a large stand of "roughly 20 ft by 20 ft", which will be showcasing for the most part the company's Idea Series, comprising the Mojo, uPrint SE and uPrint SE Plus. Intriguingly, there will also be an "entry-level PolyJet" and a range of examples of how Stratasys and Objet technology is being put to use.
"There will be a real focus on designing, engineering and manufacturing parts utilising 3D printing, so one of our primary efforts will be to look at the manufacturing companies attending the show. We're really going to be working inside the show so to speak to find engineers, designers and manufacturers who are making products day in day out. We will be making an effort to get to those people and help them understand how 3D printing is being utilised in engineering and design and in manufacturing to highlight applications they may not be aware of," Cobb said.
He went on to explain that there are many companies out there that may need to adapt current models of their products quickly, which is where 3D printing comes into its own. "Obviously, 3D printing can be used from a design and engineering standpoint, but oftentimes you may not want to go to the expense of tooling, especially when you're just looking for feedback.
"A good example is the golf industry, which has two major retailer exhibitions a year. When you think about building a new set of golf clubs - that would be typically 14 different irons and then five different woods. That's a daunting task and then you've got right-handed and left-handed clubs, so sometimes the clubs could be interspersed with a prototype club here and there to ensure they're displaying an entire new set, as it were.
"These companies ... really try to judge [the quality of a prototyped part] from the audience. They may have a couple of variants and are looking to see which is most successful, but prototyping allows them to put something out there and get, not only feedback, but orders," he remarked.
"Time to market is critical for almost everybody displaying at CES," Cobb noted. "Many of the companies will have heard of 3D printing and many have embraced 3D printing, but we think we can do more there and give them a little more insight as to how 3D printing can help them and that is what we will be saying with the Mojo and uPrint lines."
These series of printers have been carefully selected for the CES audience, but Cobb stressed that they are meant to be looked at differently from the "maker-type" machines that will be there.
"Doing our own thing"
One of the biggest 3D printing stories of 2013 was Stratasys acquisition of MakerBot for more than $600 million and, as such, the Stratasys brand has already got a hold on the maker side of the industry. Nevertheless, Cobb stated both Stratasys and MakerBot will be exhibiting independently of one another, maintaining both their very different brands.
"We're both doing our own thing," said Cobb. "We're close to each other as far as proximity is concerned at the show, but both of the booths will be distinctive of one another, certainly from MakerBot's standpoint with their price points and eco system. It's a different show for them than it is for us but we're looking forward to seeing their booth."
Stratasys has exhibited at CES before, but 2013 will be a change of format with the arrival of the TCT Magazine + Personalize-sponsored 3D Printing TechZone, a dedicated area for the growing number of 3D printing companies.
"I personally think it will work well," Cobb said, adding that the timing for a dedicated 3D Printing TechZone is pertinent due to the "incredible interest" in the technology.
"[It's preferable to] having to hunt for the various 3D printing booths that would be scattered all over. I think it's great they're in a singular location and it will actually draw more people to 3D printing because they know it's going to be an easy experience. If we didn't have it, it'd be like finding a needle in a haystack to some degree. I look at EuroMold the same way, that now has an entire hall devoted to 3D printing and to someone coming to that show, that's tremendous they can go to that one hall that interests them and everything from the software, scanners and services are all under one roof.
"I can remember 10 or 12 years ago and there would have been just a fraction of that hall and that would be it. There's been amazing changes in recent years."
3D printing at a consumer and prosumer level
One of the benefits of having a 3D printing area is the opportunity to mingle with both the big names and the startups and Stratasys will be keeping an eye on everybody they are sharing the TechZone with.
"While were there we'll be looking at the competition and what they're offering and how that could affect us. CES, especially at a consumer or prosumer level, is an excellent opportunity for somebody to show their wares. It's a great place for a startup to get immediate feedback. Of course that feedback could be good or it could be bad, but the good news is you will get the feedback from a wide range of interested customers and buyers," Cobb said.
With Christmas fast approaching, everybody is working hard to get CES preparations polished off before the end-of-year break, particularly as the industry has only just returned from Frankfurt for EuroMold.
"Two big shows in such a short space of time is hard work," Cobb said, "And they're so different. This show is a different crowd and a different product, especially this year where it’ll be a great opportunity to view everybody in close proximity to one another."