Stratasys made a bit of a splash with their online materials store this past week.
The online store permits clients to directly order proprietary materials for their equipment.
What I like about the store is that it provides a way to find your path through the incredibly huge library of materials. Stratasys, in addition to producing 3D printing gear, also performs a great deal of research on developing new materials and the results are shown in their vast catalog.
However, it can be quite tricky to identify the correct material for a particular machine, as some materials may be compatible with several machines - or perhaps just one. In the past you had to read through a series of confusing web pages to determine the right answer.
Now they seem to have put a very flexible database of materials at your disposal and you can almost immediately figure out your answer through sorting and filters. You can, for example, “tick” the machines you’re interested in, and the results panel shows only materials compatible with them.
Every material is shown with available color and sizing options and you need only pick the combination you require - and the quantity, of course.
What’s even more cool is that they retain a profile for each client that lists their machines and you can instantly see just the materials for your operation.
This service appears to be a really good thing for clients. But I am wondering what it might do to Stratasys resellers, who traditionally have been the ones supplying materials to clients.
The usual sequence would be that the machine is sold by the reseller to the client, and then the reseller provides installation and maintenance service thereafter - including supplies.
I imagine that the resellers could be making a good portion of their profit from sales of materials, but now some of that may disappear into the Stratasys online store.
Resellers might be able to retain customers by providing discounts and other value-added services that the online store cannot do.
But another thought: perhaps Stratasys existing reseller network is challenged to provide materials? It could be that the increasing breadth of Stratasys materials is too wide for resellers to maintain reasonable inventories, and thus Stratasys backstops the process by opening a web store that has EVERYTHING in it.
Regardless of the reasons, it seems to be a good idea.