Martin Back, Managing Director, takes the floor a few months after ex-ceo Beyer’s resignation & loss of Founder René Gurka

One company that first comes to everyone’s mind when we say “FDM Large Format 3D Printing” is BigRep. The German manufacturer of 3D printers left the industry with a mix of feelings and (un)answered questions at the end of 2019.  In less than three months, the company saw the resignation of former CEO Stephan Beyer and lost one of its founders, René Gurka. Yet, at Formnext 2019, the German specialist of large-format 3D printing appeared stronger than ever, and showcased unrivalled applications in the high-tech and automotive industries. What’s next now? The new Managing Director, Martin Back shared in this interview how the company envisions the future. 

Who is Martin Back, the new Managing Director of BigRep?

Back first came into our radar in June 2019 when the ex-CEO announced that he stepped back from his role. At the time, the responsibilities were shared between Back, Daniel Büning, the CIO, Frank Marangell, CBO, and Stefan Kaufmann, the company’s Head of R&D. 

Back actually joined BigRep in fall 2018 as Chief Operating Officer, taking in charge the day-to-day operations, global business strategies, new partnerships and the creation of company policies in Berlin, Boston and Singapore.

With 25 years of industry experience in management roles, the economist by training knows the traditional manufacturing industry by heart. With such an outsider view to the AM industry and with innovation as a guiding principle, Back combines the strength BigRep needs to move forward.

What’s next then?

As a reminder, Beyer left the company with a workforce of 90 employees. He managed to build up new business opportunities into Boston and Singapore, and partner with the likes of Bosch RexrothEtihad Airways and Ford. Such partnerships showed the company’s capabilities to unlock the potential of AM for various applications and confirmed its industrial focus along the value chain.  A focus that has become a mission, that the Managing Director is also willing to fulfill:

“These are my goals, too. For me, it’s really exciting to be at the center of a game-changing industry such as 3D printing, driving the technology forward and making it a key tool for industrial manufacturing while transforming design, production and supply chains.

Ultimately, we dream of a world where every industrial user is enabled to create their own product locally on a large-format BigRep solution”, said Back. 

In practice, what does it mean?

Achieving this dream means looking at issues that are slowing down the adoption of AM. In the additive manufacturing sector, there are different technologies but each of them addresses specific issues. 

 

When it comes to “Large Format Printing”, one of them is Internet of Things (IoT). Surprisingly, for IoT, 3D Printing has become the new way to make and prototype objects. The only thing is that where some saw disruption and opportunity, others saw “security” as an increasing issue.  

 

“In general, in highly interdependent processes, it’s impossible to introduce to shop floor applications a stand-alone solution. Therefore, the IoT capabilities of AM systems is a decisive factor of success.  And we have come a long way in the past year. We have been one of the pioneers in this area by introducing our BigRep PRO printer in late 2018, which was the first large-format 3D printer offering full IoT connectivity, including G5, thanks to our partnership with Bosch Rexroth, developing the Factory of the Future. We will continue on that path”, explains Back. 

 

Moving forward, and speaking about the industry in general, Back only sees development opportunities, if providers are ready to address the demands. For the spokesperson, the current requirements lead to a new and interdependent relationship of integrated applications, optimized processes and specialized materials.

BigRep’s current developments with regards to this new form of interdependent relationship of integrated applications, optimized processes and specialized materials

Following the release of the BigRep PRO, the manufacturer of large-format technology has worked on new materials that could fit its entire portfolio, from the STUDIO and STUDIO G2 to the ONE and the PRO.

First, as a reminder, the 3D printer PRO developed in collaboration with Bosch Rexroth, can create functional prototypes, as well as composite tooling, end-use parts and small-number serial production using high-performance materials. 

At the time, further information had not been given on the materials that were compatible with the technology. BigRep’s Martin Back today gives a few examples of compatible materials while highlighting their Metering Extruder Technology (MXT®):

“[Our] Metering Extruder Technology (MXT®) – featured on the BigRep PRO – is a new method of thermoplastic extrusion, combining speed with precision, and perfectly suited for a filament such as BigRep’s PA6/66. This is one of the high-performance materials (PLX, PET-CF and BVOH) we have recently introduced. Some of these [materials have been developed] in partnership with BASF.

As we work closely together with our customers, we know what manufacturers really want – they require materials that are highly efficient, can serve multiple purposes or are application-specific. An increasing selection of high-performance, engineering-grade filaments is the result. [Moreover] efficient processes and sustainability are becoming increasingly important as well, so filament recycling is another « must have », creating closed-loop supply chains – an opportunity that isn’t readily accessible in metal AM applications.” 

Meeting the growing demand for flexible AM printing services 

To meet the individual needs of the consumer good industry, companies increasingly leverage additive manufacturing that enables flexible manufacturing and production of tailor-made products. Over time, companies in demanding industries have faced the same needs: all parts do not require mass production. To meet this demand, BigRep has opened the BigRep 3D PARTLAB. The U.S-based service aims to support both the company’s partners and customers who are over capacity. Furthermore, as per the words of the Managing Director, this “360-degrees digital solutions approach” will also deliver customized ordering services for 3D printed parts including prototypes, tooling, molds as well as end-use parts. 

 “The industry is urgently looking for solutions that will reduce costs, lead times and create new ways to innovate while reducing our carbon footprint. I truly believe that 3D printing is one of the key technologies of the 21st century”, concludes Back. And mastering this industry’s challenges requires a full understanding of the entire industrial value chain. As far as BigRep is concerned, the company is not only “in good health” but also well equipped to meet these requirements.   

 

This interview has first been published in the March/April Issue of 3D ADEPT Mag.

 
 

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