Desktop 3D printing has come a long way over the years; we catch up with BCN3D for a look at various perspectives of the business.
I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to visit their HQ before, and their operations are indeed impressive — and very open. It’s the only 3D printing manufacturing site visit I’ve ever experienced where I was expressly welcome to take photos of anything I saw: old machines, assembly progress, labs, you name it.
The team has also been open with us as we’ve been in touch recently. Company Co-Founder and CTO Eric Pallarés shared his thoughts on how current conditions are impacting the desktop 3D printing sector.
Now we go a bit more in-depth into reflections on various aspects of the company, desktop 3D printing, and the industry in general with the company’s Marketing Manager, Iris Smeekes, who I first met in a previous role (for both of us!) and have been glad to catch up with in this Q&A.
Fabbaloo: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers, with a quick reflection on how long you’ve been working in 3D printing and how you joined this industry?
Iris Smeekes: “My name is Iris Smeekes, I have been working in the 3D printing industry now for over 5,5 years. I started my career at Henkel, a corporate FMCG company, but later felt that I wanted to take better advantage of my creative and organizational skills. So, I decided to join the 3D printing industry and started at Ultimaker. I saw that there were many opportunities in the market to grow and to overcome big challenges, as there usually are in these exponentially growing industries, and I felt at home right away.”
Fabbaloo: What inspired your career change to join the BCN3D team? How did your background prepare you for this move?
Iris Smeekes: “I enjoy working for companies with lots of growing potential, a great atmosphere, and a winning mentality. I think BCN3D fits these characteristics very well. If you look at the BCN3D Epsilon that has been released last year, I think there is a great growing potential for the company and an opportunity to offer a competitive solution in terms of price & experience. Due to my background I know what it’s like to be part of a team that is highly ambitious and will go the extra mile to make things happen, and I am happy to have found this again at BCN3D.”
Fabbaloo: What are your general impressions of growth in the 3D printing industry over the last 5 years? And how it stands in 2020?
Iris Smeekes: “The 3D printing industry, specifically the desktop 3D printing industry, has grown tremendously in specifically the first part of the last 5 years.However, I think we are only scratching the surface of the potential of the market. If you look at the workflow of creating parts for any type of applications, there is still a lot of undiscovered potential. I personally believe that anyone that makes parts, could benefit in terms of time and cost from the solution that is being brought in the desktop 3D printing market. With the introduction of new hardware features, software, materials and services, I think the adoption of desktop 3D printing will grow, but mostly our biggest challenge lies in changing the mindset of how things can be made better.”
Fabbaloo: Where does desktop 3D printing fit into the 3D printing industry? Into industry in general?
Iris Smeekes: “I think if you look at all different 3D printing techniques that are currently available in the industry, they complement to each other well in different areas. In quite some cases we see a combination of different techniques used for different stages in the workflow. So I think depending on the needs of the application, different technologies and with that different parts of the industry come together at once. Looking specifically from a desktop 3D printing point of view, as I mentioned earlier, there is still lots of potential to be discovered in comparison with the industrial 3d printing market that has been around for 30+ years.”
Fabbaloo: What lasting impact do you foresee the high-profile use of desktop 3D printers to create PPE/other COVID-19-driven needs having on future adoption and use of these devices?
Iris Smeekes: “I think all Covid-19 related actions that have been taken are a perfect example of how desktop 3D printing should be used for many different applications of a product lifecycle and specifically to reduce the supply chain risk. Starting with the prototyping phase (prototyping different face shields), to the first ramp-up of the products after testing and validation, going to spare parts as we have seen with different replacement tools such as a ventilator connector. This example is mainly a blue-print that showcases the potential of what could be done for different markets and applications.”
Fabbaloo: How have you seen desktop 3D printing advance as a technology and business plan?
Iris Smeekes: “At the time I joined the industry I would say the desktop 3D printing technology was pretty basic compared to the features of printers now. With the introduction of dual extruders, automated calibration and different filaments that have optimized the user experience and possibilities the technology has definitely advanced. Which has also led into new customers that will embrace this technology for new types of applications. I see a big growth in companies starting to realize the potential savings from incorporating desktop 3D printing into their workflow.”
Fabbaloo: What advances would you anticipate might be next for the adoption of desktop 3D printing technologies?
Iris Smeekes: “I think to encourage future adoption, changing mentalities and educating people on what’s possible is more important than a change in the technology. Desktop 3d printing can be beneficial for many companies, the challenge is helping them realize this.”
Fabbaloo: How do you see company structure/philosophy guiding that company’s growth and potential in the industry? (e.g., horizontal, top-down)
Iris Smeekes: “I very strongly believe in a horizontal approach. Personally I like to be challenged by anyone in the team, coming from top or down. If I look at the most enjoyable moments of my career, it is mostly the people in my team challenging me and challenging themselves to achieve great unexpected things. Professionally I find it very important to empower intrinsic motivation and give employees enough freedom to fill in their responsibilities as they see fit. l believe that being autonomous in your role, will allow creativity and higher efficiency.”
Fabbaloo: How does the makeup of a team in terms of diversity impact the way that team functions?
Iris Smeekes: “I think that diversity in a team is one of the most important things. Having men and women, from different backgrounds and personalities will make specifically marketing and sales teams perform better. Looking at BCN3D, where we serve a global market, it is really important to have insights from as many different backgrounds as possible. These insights do not only teach me new things on a daily basis, it also improves strategies and influences the quality of the entire output of the team.”
Fabbaloo: Do you feel your career experiences have been substantially different than your male peers’ experiences? How and why?
Iris Smeekes: “I don’t think so, luckily enough I have been able to grow my experience in an environment where men and women are equally treated. I do believe that because I am a woman, I bring different qualities and perspectives to the table than men. The power lies in combining these perspectives and finding the best possible ways of doing things. That is why I think it is very important that more women join the 3D printing industry, because the gender ratio needs to be more balanced. And as for my ambition regarding diversity, I strive to keep discussing the status quo of how and why things should be done.”