Stratasys is one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world, and they mean to keep it that way.
I’ve been following the company for almost ten years now, and in that time they’ve made steady progress by incrementally introducing new equipment and methods that increase the capabilities of their 3D printing offerings. Along the way they’ve made some key acquisitions and mergers, most notably with Objet, whose different product line transformed the company in a fundamental way.
But I believe there is another transformation underway that is far less visible, but equally fundamental.
As a company that was created on a kitchen table in the 1980’s, its original focus was clearly on the hardware and making it right.
That is the correct strategy for a startup company; make sure what you offer actually works and works well. Stratasys seems to have done that, as their equipment has been refined over the years to achieve a state of reliability that is envied by other manufacturers. That reliability also enables Stratasys to charge premium prices for their machines and materials, which their clients happily pay as it makes financial sense for them by leveraging the capabilities of 3D printing.
However, I feel that things are changing.
In multiple discussions with representatives from the company, it appears they are developing a different track for the future.
Perhaps this is caused by the equipment’s ability to produce production parts, which puts Stratasys (and some other 3D printer companies) in a place that’s very different from the prototyping labs their equipment was usually found.
Production is a very complex business that not only must be able to produce output at scale, but also with high quality and extreme consistency, perhaps over the course of many years. That’s extremely difficult to do.
But today’s manufacturers actually do so through the use of complex processes, a variety of equipment and software to manage it all.
That’s the world Stratasys (and others) are heading into.
As such, the company is taking different points of view. For example, I’ve heard them say they are “No longer selling the box; we are making meaningful experience for clients instead”, or that internally they mostly speak about customer use cases.
Another phrase I’ve heard them say is, “We are speaking the language of each specific application” and that there will be “Specialized applications instead of one size for all”.
All of this suggests they are moving away from a “box” as the product to a “full application system” as the product. In other words, large, customized solutions that directly address the specific needs of a client. An example of this could be a specialized system for 3D printing the entire interior of an airliner. There would be few buyers for such a system, obviously, so it would be customized solution.
The implication here is that Stratasys could find many new types of customers, and those that would be able to afford very high prices for unique customized 3D printing solutions.
It also implies that their future target customers would likely be only very large corporations who could afford such equipment. So far the company has sold around 40K units to over 18K customers, but perhaps that will slow as they sell far bigger systems to fewer clients. It’s also possible they will continue to sell the existing style of equipment to their current markets and that this new approach is an addition, rather than a replacement strategy.
They could make a huge amount of money if this strategy is successful.