Sculpteo is part of those giants that one can no longer introduce. French leader in 3D printing services, its founders Eric Careel, Clément Moreau and Jacques Lewiner crossed the French borders to enable North America to benefit from their services. Their presence at the Add Fab show in Paris assesses the achievements that should be appreciated but also the opportunities to be seized in additive manufacturing.
Clément Moreau, CEO gives us his view of the market.
Could you tell us a bit more about Sculpteo and its vision?
Sculpteo was created in 2009, a period during which 3D printing took its marks on the market, at a time when it became a real manufacturing technology. Old methods of prototyping are left for new ones methods in the manufacturing of real objects. At the beginning, it was a matter of offering a service (it is still the case today). We bought machines, created a website that allows any user to order a specific part of an object online and have it made in one of our workshops. The start was obviously not easy. It should be noted that we had a very B2C (Business to Consumers) strategy, therefore the sales were directly done to individuals. At the same moment, a wave of demand for professional products was growing on giving by this way a boost to our services. Speaking of numbers, 90% of our turnover constitutes this service to professionals. However, the needs today do not only concern prototyping but more and more “manufacturing”, fine products, small series and the first series.
The first series …?
I love that field! It involves startups but it can also be people inside a larger group who want to launch a new product and who will make the first 100 parts or the first 1000 parts with additive manufacturing technologies.
What are their biggest stakes?
Making a mold for instance in order to realize plastic injection requires quite a lot of money but also some agility in the work. We provide agility for our clients who sometimes do not have the ideal solution. In this case, the most complicated part of their planning was actually the plastic box. The creation of a connected object for example requires soft, an electronic card and a plastic box but it is quite unbearable to have a schedule dimensioned by the plastic box. So the problem we wanted to solve at the beginning… “this plastic box how do I do to have it, not in 9 months, but in 2 weeks”
Let’s go back to your target audience, so there are companies, startups and individuals?
Today, the main target is the startup, the entrepreneur and the innovators inside the giants. That’s why prices allow every group to carry out any type of order, from orders of 10 or 15 euros to those of 25,000 euros. We are the only ones on the European market to provide this type of service with the same industrial tool. With the same tools, we can realize small parts that can just wedge a washing machine and others that go into space.
Speaking of the quality of your products’ parts, what feedback do you receive from your clients? Are they all satisfied or have you ever been forced to redo a part of an object?
Of course they are satisfied! Sculpteo is willing to serve and satisfy its clients, so when there is a problem, we obviously redo the parts. What happens regularly is that people do not have the right expectation and this can be understood. One cannot blame them because we are talking about a process that is quite complicated to imagine. It is a finished object, a real object but it is not necessarily perfect.
After analyzing the current state of the 3D printing market, how do you perceive the outlook of this market?
It is certain, we are in a good position today in 3D printing. The market has been cleaned up. There was a “big hype”, a big buzz between 2012 and 2014 and it’s over now. Today, we are in a healthy situation where some companies actually make money. However, other companies went into bankruptcy and still do, but there is less money that is useless. It was sometimes a bit complicated to see a big amount of money invested in projects that many knew were bad. There are many things that improved. Some new techniques are very interesting. Companies like HP that really brings a new way to make polyamide, good parts, faster to manufacture and less expensive. Also, Carbon 3D brings a new way of making resin, new resins, things that did not exist before. There is MARKFORGED who will make metal cheap with a machine around 100,000 Euros; there is no machine today that can make real metal at 100,000 Euros.
So by 2016 things had already come a long way, in 2017 much more will still be done. So it’s not just a buzz word …It was but the realities on the ground changed with new techniques. HP for instance is really a new technology; MARKFORGED and Carbon 3D too. There is a contribution of new technologies that makes things move. That was not the case in 2009 when Sculpteo was still a startup. From 2009 to 2014 we saw nothing coming. The machines were a little bit interesting, but there were no new things. Today, there are new technologies, real new developments and I think that’s pretty positive for the market.
Speaking of the 3D printing industry and the buzz between 2012 and 2014, you point out that many companies in the sector went into bankruptcy. What is the reason of this failure?
There was a big problem with the positioning of manufacturers. Indeed, many of them had the same product. If 40 manufacturers have the same product, it’s a bit complicated and in general, only one survives. But in 2014, not even one survived. MAKERBOT however is the only one which made a good financial deal by selling its company to more than 400 million euros.
Finally, what do you think of the Add Fab event and the participation of Sculpteo. Will Sculpteo unveil a new product / service at this show?
It is an interesting fair and it is always interesting to participate in such an event! For now, we do not have a big announcement, we try to make announcements almost every month. We have new materials coming out about every month for a year and a half. We have intern chemists who are carrying out researches on new subjects and software engineers carrying out researches on new ways to edit objects in 3D.
In your future prospects, could we expect Sculpteo to create its own 3D printer?
We have a few projects in the boxes, but today nothing is really defined in this sense.
Thank you for this interview which allows our readers to better know Sculpteo and the man behind this company.