Ultimaker’s North American president discusses the evolution of the desktop 3D printer and how they have immediate cost and time benefits on the factory floor.
John Kawola began working in the additive manufacturing space in 1997, a time when decent 2D printer could cost several thousand dollars. He worked his way up the Z Corp ladder, residing as CEO for four years, until the company was acquired by 3D Systems in 2012. He left the 3D printing world to run an automation company and few other ventures. During his hiatus, 3D printing exploded. Hundreds of new companies, startups and crowdfunding campaigns sprang up, only to be clobbered back down by the reality that consumers weren’t ready for the manufacturing tech in their homes, and might never be.
One of the last companies standing, Ultimaker, enticed Kawola back into the fold as their North American president in 2016. The Dutch-based company had always focused on catering to industrial applications, where additive manufacturing is mature enough to concretely provide instant value. By the end of the year, Kawola’s crew introduced two new desktop models, the Ultimaker 2+ and Ultimaker 3, now workhorses in many colleges, innovation lab, and even the factory floor itself. Last year, Volkswagen’s Portugal plant saved $377,000 last year by 3D printing wheel assembly jigs and fixtures, as opposed to waiting long periods while replacements crawl through the supply chain.