Moving into metal marks a major move in additive manufacturing, as more companies come to recognize the power of positioning metal offers. The latest to announce such a move is industry stalwart Stratasys which, like HP before it, has so far announced an upcoming announcement: metal will be coming.

RAPID + TCT, the major 3D printing event on the North American calendar, represents the platform of choice for Stratasys’ full introduction. Last year at the show, the company announced an extension of its partnership with Desktop Metal, as it has already been well aware of the demand among its customer base for metal additive manufacturing technologies.

“This is a good thing for our customers, for channels to bring to market. It’s an evolution of our relationship; now is the time to announce as they unveil their products. We’re very early in that, as we work with partners. We’ll see that evolve over time. We have work to do, to introduce the right customers to the right technology. We’re now at the beginning of introducing this technology which is very compelling, as we strengthen our channel and the options and choices our customers have,” Stratasys’ Director of North American Sales Enablement, Roger Kelesoglu, told me at last year’s RAPID of the company’s work with Desktop Metal.

Again this year, metal will feature significantly in the RAPID + TCT schedule, and Stratasys’ announcement will fit smoothly into this agenda of innovation.

Stratasys’ booth at RAPID 2017

This year, the big metal announcement from Stratasys will revolve around its own, internally developed metal additive manufacturing platform. Targeted at short-run production, the new system was, according to the company, designed over the past several years “to become a viable manufacturing technology to displace conventional methods for short-run manufacturing.” Aluminum will be the first material targeted for the new platform, as the company looks to common metallurgical needs, noting that the system will allow for “an economically competitive cost-per-part and throughput, with easy to implement post-processing and high part quality.”

“We are extremely excited to announce our development of this new additive manufacturing platform, targeting short-run production applications for a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, defense, machining, and metal foundries. We believe that this platform will meaningfully expand our addressable markets for the long term and provide our customers with an effective means to realize the values of additive manufacturing for powder metallurgy applications,” said Stratasys CEO Ilan Levin.

Automotive component for Skorpion seen at formnext 2017

Stratasys, which already works deeply within several of these industries, will bring its new technology to bear, offering new solutions set to “directly address the needs of customers whose requirements include the production of pilot-series parts, small batch manufacturing during product ramp up and end-of-life, and customized, lightweight, and complex parts.”

The new system, yet to be named publicly, will feature Stratasys’ proprietary jetting technology. Jetting technologies have become an increasingly popular choice for new metal announcements. For its part, Stratasys notes that it is working to overcome “material limitations of currently available metal-based additive manufacturing systems.” Powder bed metal 3D printing, likely the most familiar technology for these materials, has the benefit of significant years of R&D behind it to develop systems already fairly established on the market, including for end-use parts. Jetting technologies offer an intriguing platform for metals, particularly in terms of scalability and the potential to bring costs down.

“Following a period of incubation over the last several years, we are excited to share details of our technology roadmap, which we believe will deliver the promise of additive manufacturing to short-run metal part production. As a pioneer and leader in the additive manufacturing industry, Stratasys is increasing its investments in the development of innovative technologies and application knowledge to drive adoption through deeper customer engagement,” said Levin.

We’ll learn more about Stratasys’ metal announcement in April, as the company introduces its technology at RAPID + TCT; the company will be at booth #1104. We’ll be on-site in Fort Worth, Texas, all that week.

2018 is already seeing Stratasys work to ramp up its offerings and investment; the metal 3D printer was not the company’s first new technology introduction, with the Objet260 Dental 3D Printer, based on triple-jetting PolyJet technology, among a slew of dental-focused announcements emerging last week. The company has also broadened partnerships in the medical arena, and brought in additional technologies including HP’s Multi Jet Fusion into its portfolio of offerings. FDM and PolyJet technologies will also see “further advancements” in 2018 along with metals, as Stratasys keeps its focus on a longer-term roadmap.

Stratasys’ multi-material J750 3D printer at formnext 2017

“We still see by unit sales that we are the leader, but it’s getting hard. We look where our unique advantages are, and try to focus there,” Andreas Langfeld, VP of Sales, Stratasys, told me at formnext 2017.

While we had been speaking at the time about the latest software capabilities, Langfeld also touched on broader perspectives, noting, “In the end, it’s the materials that really make the difference; a printer is only an output device. If you don’t have the right materials, you can’t have the applications.”

In addition to its enticing pre-announcement announcement, today Stratasys has also released its Q4 and full-year 2017 financial results. The company notes Q4 revenues up 2% compared to the same period last year, at $179.3 million versus last year’s $175.3 million. Fiscal 2017 revenues were $668.4 million, down from $672.5 million in fiscal 2016; gross profits were $322.8 millon compared to last year’s $317.3 million. Revenue guidance for 2018 is $670-$700 million.

“Our fourth quarter results reflect the momentum that we built throughout the year, which we attribute to the positive market reaction to several new product introductions, including our F123 Series launched in February, 2017 and the more recently commercialized H2000 and J700 Dental Solutions, as well as investments in specific go-to-market initiatives for our target verticals of aerospace, automotive, and healthcare. Our improved profitability and healthy cash generation in the quarter demonstrates the success of our alignment of resources to support our strategic roadmap,” said Levin.

Full results are available here.

[Image: Stratasys]

Discuss Stratasy’s move into metal and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Photos: Sarah Goehrke]

 

 

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