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The Need for Speed

August 4, 2003

Filed under: additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:58

In product development, many believe that speed isn’t everything, but almost. For this reason, one might assume that the fastest machines for rapid prototyping are the most popular. Among the fastest are those using raster printing techniques that swiftly build layer after layer. On the horizon are new developments in machine technology that use a method of imaging an entire layer at once, promising to outpace the raster approaches.

Most would agree that the machines from Stratasys are not the fastest on the market. The company’s Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a vector-based approach, analogous to a pen plotter. Pen plotting was once a standard method of printing large format documents, but it has since been replaced by much faster raster devices. Despite its vector approach, one cannot argue with the impressive success that Stratasys is experiencing. For the first six months of this year, the company’s revenue grew by 37%, with net income of $2.66 million, and a 77% increase in unit sales. What’s more, its stock has rocketed from about $5 in October 2002 to more than $40 last week. That’s an increase of more than eight times. 

So what does Stratasys have that is missing at some of its competitors? First, I believe the company has strong leadership and management. Scott Crump, CEO, has a hands-on approach (he’s an engineer) and connects well with employees, customers, and others. Some managers and employees have been at Stratasys for more than a decade, so that says something about the company. 

Stratasys offers sound technology packaged into products that are affordable and easy to operate and maintain. This cannot be said about some of its competitors. FDM materials, such as ABS plastic, provide excellent mechanical properties. Also, the company’s introduction of WaterWorks was an important milestone. This method of removing support material greatly reduces time and cost. In the end, it improves overall throughput, helping to make up for losses in speed from the deposition process. 

Last but not least, the introduction of the $29,900 Dimension product exceeded expectations inside and outside the company. With this product, coupled with the almost flawless execution of its sales and marketing strategy, Stratasys is doing very well. Hats off to the company.