The executive perspective: SLM Solutions CEO Meddah Hadjar on the AM market

There is a significant number of manufacturers of Selective Laser Melting Machines on the additive manufacturing market, but SLM Solutions is undoubtedly one of the companies that embodies the best the principles that are represented in this technology. In its current form, the company’s commitment to fostering collaboration on metal AM projects and to helping scale users to series production can be felt and observed across the world.

Today, more than ever, there are notable developments in the competitive landscape of selective laser melting equipment market. A wide range of companies joined the niche market. They continuously challenge existing players to push their boundaries to remain on top of the list. The only thing is that being a top player requires a well-thought-out strategy.

Taking SLM Solutions as an example, Meddah Hadjar will share how the company manages to stay on top of the game. #OpinionOfTheWeek

The executive perspective

How do we achieve the transition to series production? How do we harness the growth drivers of a company? How can we optimize fast, reliable, and cost-efficient part production? Etc.

Companies are striving to answer dozens of questions every day, but the key is to be able to find the ONE that will guide the company through each step of the process.

Meddah Hadjar is the ONE for SLM Solutions. With a wealth of international experience in a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, aerospace and aviation, Meddah Hadjar brings within 20 years of experience at GE. As the former manager of GE Additive’s Laser Products business, and as an additive manufacturing veteran, Hadjar is uniquely positioned to understand and lead the Germany-based company.

SLM Solutions – Headquarters

What are the targets you set for yourself to fulfill this new role?

First, SLM Solutions is a fantastic company with a robust technology product portfolio. The company invests a lot in technology development, in metal AM exclusively. Coming here requires an understanding of the market to implement a growth strategy that is consistent with accelerating the technology adoption in the industry on the one hand, on the other hand, to ensure the launch of new products in the market. 

Our products are designed to enable reliability and productivity in terms of reduced cost to the customer, not to mention that they facilitate the adoption of AM in all industrial sectors (aerospace, aviation, automotive…)

Apart from aviation and other demanding industries, you also bring extensive experience in different sectors such as Oil & Gas – Power & Energy at GE; sectors that start exploring the benefits of additive manufacturing. According to you, what are the main differences between the use of AM in those sectors and its use in the aviation and automotive industries?

It is crucial to understand both applications and customers. Every industry is looking for different criteria in terms of applications.

Obviously, aviation & aerospace are more advanced with regards to applications because the advantages in time to market and performance one gets with AM are significant. Furthermore, in most cases, they justify the considerable investment made in the technology.

 In the power & energy sectors, on the other hand, there is still a gap in the adoption of additive manufacturing because of challenges such as the cost or the lack of knowledge, not to mention that sometimes the productivity of the machine “is not there yet.” Indeed, the size of the machine and its limitation in terms of lasers are a few hurdles that can hold back productivity, hence the need for dedicated systems for each industry.

However, looking forward, we see that most industries will be fast adopters of AM technologies.

At the manufacturing level, I think that all of these industries share the same challenges: cost, performance, and weight. The key is that the business case has to make sense.

I believe that as we go forward, both the AM suppliers and AM adopters will experience significant growth.

What are the current challenges SLM Solutions has to overcome right now?

The current challenges are probably related to the way we have secured our “go-to-market” strategy, how the company has been managed in the last couple of years. This has brought several challenges in terms of growth. I believe that with the right leadership, the right strategy, and the right focus, we will be able to have a much better position in the market and to take the lead of the industry.

Given the quality of our products, we will easily overcome the rest of the challenges by building our leadership team and by rethinking our growth strategy.

Speaking of the company’s Additive Manufacturing solutions, according to you, what enables SLM Solutions to stand out from the crowd?

SLM is genuinely one of the pioneers in Laser Melting technologies; SLM Solutions was the first on the market with multi-laser systems, SLM Solutions’ machines are known for featuring multi-laser options and closed-loop powder handling to achieve safety and fast build speeds for complex and significant metal parts.)

Due to our comprehensive range of solutions (the SLM 125, SLM 280, SLM 500 and SLM 800) and the variety of applications, we believe that we have a significant advantage compared to other powder-bed fusion technologies. Furthermore, our techniques are 30% more productive than competitive systems with a lower cost of ownership and smaller footprint for our customers. This is what makes SLM machines outstanding.

 SLM Solutions has recently opened a new Application Center in Shanghai. How do you perceive the AM market in China compared to Europe? 

China is a crucial market for us. We opened the center to be close- to our customers and to better serve them. It goes without saying that the dynamic in China is different from what we have in Europe. That’s why our customers in Europe have different requirements and different views in their use of the technology than our customers in China.

Moreover, the focus on aerospace and automotive applications is not the same in both regions. In China, for instance, production costs are a challenge because there are more competitors with aggressive pricing. Competitors are not the same in both regions. Simply, there is a different kind of competition between the two regions.

However, it does not change our positioning because the value of our products is unique. Customers demand more reliability, and we remain a top leading supplier to provide a technology that meets that requirement consistently. Today, we still face a challenge to drive our prices in the right direction, and we will continue to overcome that in both China & Europe.

For the second half of the year, could we expect the launch of another innovative solution dedicated to the AM industry?

We can expect a specific maturation of the technology and industrialization of our products. We have been working on the next generation of products.

Any last words to add?

The message is clear that SLM Solutions is the key to enable the adoption of industrialization of every sector. Selective Laser Melting is our core technology. We focus on our essential products, and we are ready for mass production. SLM Solutions is well-positioned to achieve this goal in the short term and long term.

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