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3D Systems – Healthcare

December 16, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:21

I visited 3D Systems’ new healthcare facility in Denver, Colorado for the first time on Monday. The company invited a number of people from the media and investment community to see the facility and get an update on the company’s strategy. Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi, the relatively new CEO at 3D Systems, led much of the discussion, along with other senior managers. We toured the facility and got our hands on some of the medical simulation tools for endoscopic surgery, colonoscopies, and other procedures. The facility employs about 140 people, many of whom process data from medical scanners, such as CT and MRI, and prepare it for 3D printing.

VJ said the company’s new strategy is to focus on vertical markets, such as healthcare, aerospace, automotive, and others. The Denver healthcare site is, by far, the most developed of the verticals and serves as a great example. Andy Christensen, former owner and president of Medical Modeling, deserves much of the credit. 3D Systems acquired the company in April 2014. Andy and his management team were very much a part of the design of the new facility, which opened in March 2016. Christensen was employed by 3D Systems until March 2015 when he left the company. 3D Systems’ management said that it has planned 75,000 surgical cases, although most of them were done by Medical Modeling before it was acquired.

hearts

In my view, the healthcare facility is the “crown jewel” of the company’s verticals. Christensen knew what he was doing when growing Medical Modeling from 2000 to 2014. Likewise, I believe VJ knows what he’s doing in building on this success and using it as an example for other vertical markets. The focus is on specific application solutions for industrial sectors, rather than on the company’s products and services. This shift in focus, coupled with other adjustments VJ is making, is refreshing. He explained that if some of the 50 or so companies and businesses acquired from August 2009 to April 2015 fall by the wayside, that’s okay. The company “may” sell one or more of them, but that’s not the emphasis at this time.

3D Systems is beginning to “feel” like a different company, even though VJ arrived only about eight months ago. Given what he did in his 32 years at HP, I’m optimistic that he will get the company on track. He is an engineer and strong manager and has the respect of former colleagues. His focus on verticals is a good move, and its healthcare business is a great example of how the company could develop in other markets.

30 Years Later

December 4, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 11:02

It does not seem possible, but it’s true: Wohlers Associates has been in business for three decades. I started the company in November 1986 after working at Colorado State University for five years. I was young at the time—not even 30—but it “felt” like the right thing to do. I was inspired by Dr. Joel Orr, a brilliant individual and extremely successful consultant, author, and speaker. I told myself that if I could do even a small fraction of what he does, it would be incredibly interesting and challenging. I don’t know that I’ve even “scratched the surface,” compared to what Joel has achieved, but it has been enormously gratifying, and I’ve been lucky to work with great people and organizations over the years.

The original focus of Wohlers Associates was on CAD tools and their application. I was presented with the opportunity of being the instructor of the first semester credit course on CAD at CSU in 1983. CAD experience and know-how were hard to find back then, so I was approached by three publishers to write a textbook. I accepted the offer from McGraw-Hill in 1985. The work experience and textbook provided a foundation for offering CAD instruction and consulting to local companies, such as HP, Kodak, Waterpik, and Woodward. I also accepted writing assignments from technical journals, which did not pay a lot, but they helped to introduce our startup company to the world. I learned from Joel that if you want to meet people with similar interests, speak at industry events, so I began to participate in technical conference programs.

30-years

Less than a year after starting the company, I came across a short but interesting article in a newsletter published by Joel. It was about a start-up company named 3D Systems, and it discussed a new process called stereolithography. I was fascinated by the concept and envisioned how powerful it could become in combination with CAD solid modeling tools, which were rolling out at around that time. Aries Concept Station was the first to support stereolithography. Dave Albert, a person that Joel and I know, was commissioned to create the CAD interface and file format for 3D Systems. It was called “STL” and it’s still being used extensively today. I don’t know whether Joel knows it, but I credit him for introducing me to additive manufacturing and 3D printing, a class of technology in which our company has spent most of its energy. I’m excited to go to work every day because of the almost endless opportunities that this technology presents.

I have many stories from the journey that began 30 years ago, but I will save most of them for another time. I do want to say that without my wife, Diane, the company would not exist. She has provided mountains of loving support and encouragement over the years. Also, she has graciously tolerated my crazy travel and work schedule. Without her, our accounting system would be a mess. I also give my sincerest gratitude to Joel Orr. Without his inspiration and encouragement, it’s safe to say that Wohlers Associates would not have been launched. Thanks also to countless others around the world for contributing and supporting our company over the past 30 years.