3D Systems CEO Joshi on additive manufacturing, materials innovation and the state of 3D printing

In a wide-ranging interview with ZDNet, Joshi talks about the impact of additive manufacturing, 3D Systems approach and how more materials innovation is needed to scale customization.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Vyomesh Joshi, CEO of 3D Systems, sees a long runway for additive manufacturing, says materials are a key area for innovation and outlines how the industry will evolve in an interview with ZDNet.

The interview, recorded in full in the video here, is part of an ongoing series ZDNet will do to talk to thought leaders from technology companies that aim to help enterprise buyers innovate.

The 3D printing and additive market looks promising. According to IDC, global spending on 3D printing will be nearly $12 billion, up 19.8 percent from 2017. By 2021, IDC estimates global 3D printing spending of $20 billion with a five year compound annual growth rate of 20.5 percent.

Here are the highlights from our interview with Joshi, who formerly led HP's printing business. The conversation runs in full in the video.

3D Systems' industry focus. Joshi said the company is focused on healthcare as a key industry for additive. He said healthcare is 3D Systems biggest business and the company is focused on workflow tools and the integration of software and hardware. "We can take what we do in healthcare, digitize it and apply it to aerospace," he said. Healthcare is about customization at scale.

Aerospace is more about complexity and coming up with designs that can save money. "Complexity is free in 3D printing," he said.

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Prototyping vs. manufacturing. For healthcare, 3D printing is about production workflow. Other industries are more in the prototyping phase. "Prototyping is about form and fit. Production is more about functionality," said Joshi. For production workflows, 3D printing needs to meet functionality needs and improve the cost of operation. Manufacturing will need process work too, he added.

What inning is additive manufacturing in? Joshi said the production point of view, 3D printing is more in first inning.

Materials innovation. Joshi said one holdup for additive manufacturing is materials innovation. "The starting point is materials. I'm putting tremendous R&D resources on materials," he said. The materials and 3D printing economic model rhymes with the traditional printing business, but vendors will have to innovate. Materials will be a proprietary thing at first with partners and Joshi noted that the "open materials" isn't going to happen right away. Why? The speed of production means that new materials will be needed. "The chemistry is where the innovation is," he said. "Materials will be developed by 3D Systems with partners."

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The ROI of additive. Joshi said the returns will on additive manufacturing will be compressing the time between idea to production. If you can take an idea to production cycle to one year to three years "people will pay a premium for that," but in the long run 3D printing companies will need to take costs out too. "I'm thinking long term," he said. "I need to look at the total cost of operation too."

Enterprise maturity curve of additive manufacturing. Joshi said enterprises lack the experience with additive manufacturing but do see the advantages. Building out the skill set for additive manufacturing will take time, he said. Production equipment will also need a lot more automation. "In next three years you'll see more materials at a higher speed and integrating them into the factory systems," said Joshi.

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Impact on labor market from additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing will ultimately lead to mass customization at the point of delivery, said Joshi. Joshi said the importance of customization and design is likely to mean the manufacturing that left the U.S. will return. "You won't have to rely on sending all of your parts to China. Because you are compressing the product lifecycle you'll be able to do more products faster at a reasonable cost," said Joshi. Multiple industries will do things in new way and that could lead to more jobs.

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The service bureau model. For additive manufacturing, a service bureau will serve as a contract manufacturer because enterprises won't want to own the infrastructure, said Joshi. "The service bureau will be the first place to test additive manufacturing technology. They will become our first customers," said Joshi. Think manufacturing as a service.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener

The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

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