Interview of the CEO of Metal3D SA, Mr. Nikos Efentakis, in Molding magazine
Mr. Nikos Efentakis, CEO of Metal3D SA, in an interview, in the Hellenic Additive Manufacturing Section of the 70th issue of Molding magazine, stressed that:
"As mentioned earlier, Metal3D SA offers custom 3D printing services.
To support our clients, we have evolved and offer truly high quality design services and a full spectrum of product analysis services. Our goal is to improve the design of our customers' components while improving their technical characteristics.
It is important to mention that we offer our customers ready-made, finished metal parts, with a combination of 3D printing and machining, utilizing our close cooperation with N. Bazigos SA, an excellently equipped machine shop with state-of-the-art CNC machinery."
The complete interview in greek is available here.
A engish translation follows:
a) When and how you started
The truth is that I have been following carefully for several years the developments in the field of 3D printing with great interest.
While still active in the plastic injection molding industry, I was facing every day the growing need for faster product introduction to the market and the constant shrinking of production lot.
At the same time, however, I found the difficulty of 3D printing to offer plastic components with comparable to injection molding technical specifications and aesthetic requirements.
Certainly at some point in the future, the evolution of 3D printing technologies will develop methods and plastic materials that will overcome this difficulty. But this is not an option for today. Today, the most reasonable chance to bring fast new products to the market, in small lots and in reasonable costs, lies in the Rapid Tooling technology. Instead of printing the components, we might better print their production molds.
That's why I had oriented my search for 3D metal printing technologies.
At the end of 2018, Desktop Metal printers appeared on the market. These printers offered a new balance of characteristics. Compromises in detail, accuracy and surface finish but with reasonable cost and a straight forward production method. Now, common industries, such as mold manufacturing, got access to 3D printing.
In contrary of the common perception of 3D printing as a new production method that will replace the traditional ones, I believe in an optimum balance between new and traditional processes.For that reason, I planned for a new company in Metal 3D printing, which will have access to a state-of-the-art traditional toolshop. It was for me obviou that best partner would have been the company “N. Bazigos S.A.”. So I contacted Nikos and Manos and we agreed to jointly establish Metal3D, which will be housed in the premises of Bazigos and will be active in the field of 3Dprinting, spearheaded by a Studio System + Desktop Metal printer.
The company was founded in the autumn of 2019 and shortly after purchased and commissioned for commercial use the first 3D metal printer in Greece.
b) What exactly does your company do?
If we need to give a general definition, I would say that we provide services in the field of 3D printing (or bette rin Additive Manufacturing) focused on the needs of b2b industrial partners.
If we look at it from the point of view of our mechanical equipment, we are a Service Bureau in the 3D printing of metal and plastic components.
Our orientation towards industrial applications is a natural continuation of the professional experience of the founders of the company. We speak and understand the special “language”, spoken by the major industrial corporations.
I concluded that our deep knowledge in manufacturing is best exploited in this particular sector.
Almost all components submitted from our customers to us for 3d printing were mostly unsuitable for this job, as all current components are designed and usually already manufactured by any of the traditional manufacturing methods. In these components there have already incorporated too many compromises in functionality, aesthetics and assembly process, all required to adapt the components to the needs of the selected manufacturing process. It is no longer what their designers had dreamed of, nor what the final consumer would probably wanted to see.
These components do not take advantage of the capabilities of 3D printing and are more expensive if printed.
This situation brought us face to face with two challenges.
The first is to assist our customers to redesign individual components so that they can 3D printed and offer at least some of the great advantages of 3D printing. For example, to incorporate multiple components into a single 3D printing object, to propose changes that will offer significant weight savings or aesthetic improvements, to propose design modifications that will facilitate their assembly, and so on.
The second is more strategic. As the greatest benefits of "Additive Manufacturing" can be achieved, if their requirements and capabilities, are considered from the initial stages in the design or redesign of products, we must accept the challenge to cooperate with candidate customers from the early stages of the parts design, in order to incorporate 3D printing into the new parts DNA. We should therefore share our knowledge towards that goal with our prospective clients. Often without any assurances for a future commercial transaction.
Unfortunately we cannot just claim a share of the market for our services (i.e. metal 3D printing). We initially should develop this market!
c) What are the solutions you propose in the market?
As mentioned earlier, Metal3D S.A.offers custom 3D printing services.
To support our customers, we have evolved and offer high quality product design services. Our aim is to improve the design of our customers' components while improving their technical characteristics.
It is important to mention that we offer our customers ready-made, finished metal components, with a combination of 3D printing and machining processes, utilizing our close cooperation with N.Bazigos S.A., and a well-equipped machine shop with state-of-the-art machinery.
An important area that Metal3D has focused on, is the manufacture of injection molds using Additive Manufacturing technologies for the production of small series of plastics.
Our involvement with injection molds comprises three different products/services:
- 3D printing of inserts of normal serial production molds, incorporating conformal cooling channels, usually made of H13 steel –similar to Uddeholm’s Orvar-, in order to optimize the production cycle time.
- Rapid Tooling, i.e. printing of mold inserts, in order to improve – with some compromises – the manufacturing times of the molds.
- “Soft Tools”. We deliver in extremely short times, injection molds for the production of a limited number of injection moldings.
a. We are able to design and construct molds that will benefit by an extensive use of Additive Manufacturing methods and produce and deliver a limited amount of moldings. Metal3D SA designs the mold, 3D prints(both in plastic or metal) several components, undertakes CNC machining and final assembly of the mold and at the end takes care for the Injection Molding of the components and their delivery to the customer.
d) What is your advantage in relation to competition?
In the field of Rapid Tooling and Soft Tooling I can say that we use state-of-the-art technologies combined with our know-how in the design and manufacture of molds that gives us a significant competitive advantage.
In the field of 3D printing of metal components, I still do not know any other competitor in Greece and especially in the Bound Metal Deposition production method, there is only a very small number of printers currently installed even in Europe.
As far as plastic printing is concerned, our major competitive advantage is our deep knowledge in the engineering thermoplastic materials and their industrial applications.
Our goal is to build long-term business relationships, as I have done throughout my whole professional life. I know that the quality of cooperation is built over time.
e) What other services do you offer?
We will not offer any additional services. If we expand somewhere, this will be done very selectively and after a very serious study.
I know that today in Greece, the very small size of the market for Additive Manufacturing services has lead almost all other companies active in the sector to offer a wide range of dissimilar additive manufacturing activities to ensure adequate turnover. We're not going down that road. We believe that what will determine the success or not of our project is not our relative position on the domestic market, but how we will be able to stand in international competition. I believe that it is impossible for a greek company to achieve a remarkable international performance in a wide range of services. Focus is the key for the success.
For this reason, our goal will always be to deepen our expertise and know-how in our core competencies, rather thane expanding into multiple related or non-related activities.
In order to provide a complete service to our customers, in Metal3D S.A. we will always prefer to complement our services with business partnerships with other companies that will share with us the same perspective focused on the continuous improvement of what they count as core business.
f) Why would a prospective buyer prefer the services ofyour company?
This question presupposes that there are many buyers with similar needs and have many equal choices.
In this particular industry and at this moment, this is far away from the truth. Those looking for 3D printing services are still few and come from very different activities with divergent needs.
For some of them, our mix of services may be the most appropriate. For other people, no! Buyers should choose the partner that suits them.
g) How do you see the market today inyour sector?
With incredible optimism!
It is a market that shows an internationally huge growth rate and combined with the fact that in Greece we are still at the beginning we should expect comparatively even greater growth potential.
Additive Manufacturing is a capital intensive industry, with limited direct labor, highly skilled technicians and serves a fragmented production with a large number of different components in small quantities.
With the above characteristics, we will have an industry that will not concentrate on a few very large companies, nor will it be transferred intensively to low-cost countries.
All suggest a market suitable for development in Greece and perfectly fit to myself in particular!
h) What are your goals for the future?
Let's all be healthy!
The rest will follow.