Interview: Avi Reichental on the 3D Printing Revolution (Part 2)

The first part of my interview with Avi Reichental, president and CEO of 3D Systems focuses on the history of 3D printing, what 3D printers can do, and tools to overcome barriers to mass adoption.

In the second part of this interview, Avi Reichental talks to us about the business model at 3D Systems, the value of 3D printing and mass customization, and the impact of technological convergence on the 3D printing revolution.

What is the business model at 3D systems for home printers? How does it compare to the business model for B2B?

In many ways, the business model is the same. We believe that professionals and consumers have the same needs, and professionals go home and consume and consumers go to work and expect to do their job. So the business model for us is to delight our customers, to provide them with amazing creativity, design, and manufacturing tools that will help them either pursue their passion or be extremely successful in their profession as entrepreneurs or designers or engineers in companies. And do it in a way that allows us to benefit from the experience we currently have. We would like to accelerate the adoption of printers and sell more, and would like to benefit from the recurring usage of the printers, like supplying materials and services. We would also like to have people who do not have 3D printers, by providing cloud printing services, so if you don't have a 3D printer, but want to experience the magic of 3D printing, upload your designs or download somebody else's designs and modify, and we will 3D print them and deliver them to your home. Or if you have a 3D printer and you want to print in a different material or in a bigger size, or if you want to print out of metal, or ceramics, we will get you what you need and deliver it to your house, because we want you to be part of the 3D printing revolution. And we will also be responsible, a big part of our business model now is sustainability, and it is prominently featured on , Our sustainability program basically says, sends us all your empty cartridges, we will recycle and repurpose them, send us all of your 3D printables and scraps that you cannot compost yourself, we will do it responsibly, sell us all your 3D printables that you do not wish to keep around, we will recycle and repurpose and reuse them, because we think this is part of the overall 3D printing experience. In addition, to the fact that it almost does not generate any waste to begin with, it makes us use and recycle the rest.

What do you see as the value of 3D printing?

I think that in the next 5-10 years 3D printing will change everything. It will change how we print, how we create, how we manufacture, how we design, how we decorate, how we treat a variety of medical conditions, and the value is that with 3D printing there are no limitations in complexity and in the final charge. And what I mean by that is that the printer does not care if it prints the simplest of all geometries or the most complex one. There is no penalty, there is no extra charge for complexity. And the other thing is that there is no penalty and no extra charge for minimum quantity. So whether you want to print in a quantity of one or in a quantity of one million, you can do it. That is really interesting and important for start-ups and small businesses, because all of a sudden, they can begin to access the same technology and the same capabilities that historically were reserved to big companies. And at the same time if you have a computer or Internet or you can access cloud printing, you can begin to present, and design, and sell products with the same capabilities and the same technology, and the same impact that large companies have. That can change everything.

Any concluding thoughts?

I am very passionate about what 3D printing can do. I think it is important to know that although 3D Systems invented 3D printing three decades ago, we continue to innovate and disrupt because we believe that it can really make good across the board. And the other thing that is interesting, is that after all these years, we are also benefiting from this incredible convergence of related technologies that make all of this possible and democratize. It includes cloud computing, the Kinect sensor, robotics, and artificial intelligence, that together with 3D printing, create this tide wave of convergence that makes it possible almost for anybody to begin to benefit from 3D printing. This was not the case a few years ago. A few years ago, even if we had these amazing printers, we could not have done anything on the cloud because computing was not available. We could not have done Cubify Capture because we didn't have the incredible power of smart phones and the Kinect. So a lot of the things that we are contemplating of doing today is because of this incredible convergence, and because of that, I believe that we are living in one of the most incredible and interesting periods in the record of human history because this convergence is going to create exponential changes in everything that we do. So, I feel blessed to live in this period.

Thank you very much.

My pleasure. Thank you very much.

Avi Reichental will deliver a keynote speech at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo: Where 3D Printing Means Business, the first US conference and expo dedicated exclusively to the 3D printing industry. Javits Convention Center, New York City, April 22-23, 2013.