While attending RAPID + TCT a few weeks ago, I met Bryan Crutchfield, Vice President and General Manager – North America of Materialize (NASDAQ: MTLS), to discuss what’s new at the Belgian services company. and 3D printing software. Of course, the first topic discussed was obviously the company’s option to acquire Link3D, which was announced in April.
“During the pandemic, we took an option to buy Link3D, and we intend to finalize this transaction by the end of the year,” he told me.
Integration has already started and Link3D will be directly connected to Materialize Magics, allowing users to work more efficiently with Link3D’s file management software and Manufacturing Execution System (MES). The goal of the acquisition is to bring the power of the company’s software suite directly to the cloud.
“We’ve spent the last few years separating all of our tools and redesigning them so they can move to the cloud,” said Crutchfield, explaining that this will create a digital workflow.
“This is the next step for 3D printing,” he continued, “mass production with a specific, very tightly controlled and automated workflow”.
When you automate manufacturing tasks, fewer human errors are created, and Crutchfield said that’s why it’s so important to do as much as possible automatically. In addition, automated tasks allow data to be captured during the process and begin to create feedback loops. He told me that Materialize has been working on these “behind the scenes” for the past few years, which is why buying Link3D was such a good choice for the company.
“So we’re going to enable this digital manufacturing platform to allow our users to better tailor their workflows to their specific needs, industry and products,” said Crutchfield. “I think this is something the industry has been looking forward to for a long time, rather than trying to piece together a lot of different software packages. “
He called it the slow revolution, this continuing march towards a unified 3D software platform.
“It’s going to happen, but it still takes time. With so many different technologies, they will have all their applications and uses, it will not only be to arrive, “he told me.” So for us to stay agnostic and open, and collaborate with as many open systems as possible and help connect everyone together, that’s where we’ll continue to play. “
Crutchfield said that in early 2022, Materialize plans to launch a connected version of its tools and products with Link3D.
“This is mission one, our customers are begging for it,” he said. “We will try to release an even bigger tool set later.”
He explained that the company has had to rethink its entire product line, but the end goal is to make everything API-compatible in order to put all the tools together “in a single way.” In the future, Materialize may focus more on MES and planning, Link3D’s area of expertise, and work towards creating automated and certified workflows.
“Industries that are currently successful are certified, such as medical and aerospace,” said Crutchfield. “They have to lock down those workflows and capture the data because the government is forcing you to store this data for many years. “
He explained how 3D technology lends itself particularly well in the medical field because “each person is unique” and the fact that reimbursement evolves towards results.
“There is a real incentive to make sure everything is done right the first time around,” he said. “In the medical sector, they have seen that 3D printing can help tailor treatment to a specific patient.
Crutchfield mentioned how rewarding it is to see how life-changing these technologies can be in the medical field, and I absolutely agree with him.
“It would have been impossible a few years ago, but now it’s in our wheelhouse,” he said. “We believe in the need to make the world a better place.
“Obviously it started quite naturally with orthopedics, but we’re starting to look at soft tissue and lung tissue, and our R&D team is figuring out what we can and can’t do. “
Wondering how to make its medical workflows better and more accurate, Materialize has extended its Mimics tools, taking the technology and “breaking it down and organizing it very specifically into modules,” as Crutchfield explained. The company has partnered with some of the largest US hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic, which regularly use Mimics software.
“There are a lot of things hospitals need to think about when they start up,” he said of adopting 3D printing. “So we try to structure the software to allow them to do it transparently from the start. “
Another initiative that Materialize has encouraged is sustainability, which is one of the company’s five-year goals. As a step in the right direction, they joined AMGTA this spring, but Crutchfield says they think there’s still a lot of work everyone in the industry can do to become more sustainable.
“The more efficient we become, the lower the costs will be,” he said. “But also, take traditional manufacturing methods. 3D printing is dirtier than molding, which is why we as an industry need to fix it and know how to stop throwing dust. We are really focused on helping the industry move forward.
Crutchfield said the company had signed the UN pledge to the Sustainable Development Goals in another effort to reduce its carbon footprint.
“We report annually on how we are progressing towards these goals,” he said. “We are switching to green electricity in our North American factories, we are looking at the recyclability of the powder and we are traveling. “
The pandemic has given everyone the (unrequested) opportunity to take a step back from business travel, and people have had to get creative with virtual events over the past two years. So many companies in the industry, like Materialize, have taken the opportunity to take a close look at how much they travel and how much is actually needed.
“COVID has helped make us more aware of this, as our employees have traveled a lot,” Crutchfield said.
Take a look at more of my photos from the Materialize booth and stay tuned for more news from RAPID 2021!