Stratasys, Ltd., executives Jim Bartel, Jon Cobb, Jeff DeGrange and Sharon
Eden Prairie firm:
Minnesota can be a leader in new manufacturing technology A Civic CaucusFocus on CompetitivenessInterview
September 20, 2013
Jim Bartel, Dave Broden, Janis Clay, Jon
Cobb, Jack Davies, Pat Davies, Jeff DeGrange, Paul Gilje
(coordinator), Joe Hiemenz, Randy Johnson, John Kemper, Sallie Kemper,
Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, Sharon Steinhoff Smith.
( www.stratasys.com )
is a global provider of a range of three-dimensional (3D) printing
systems, resin consumables and services. RedEye, by Stratasys
is the 3D printing business unit of Stratasys, Ltd. Both are located
in Eden Prairie.
Jim Bartel is Vice President and General
Manager of RedEye, a business unit of Stratasys. Prior to joining
Stratasys in 2012, he held senior leadership positions in
manufacturing companies focused on the design, development and
marketing of proprietary products, as well as contract manufacturing
services. His roles have included Director of Marketing at Miller
Manufacturing Company, Vice President of Marketing for ATEK Companies
and President of ATEK Products, LLC. He has experience with hardware
and software products, including cloud-based systems, serving many
vertical markets such as medical, automotive, aerospace, agricultural,
oil and gas.
Bartel earned a B.A. in Economics and
Management from Hartwick College in New York and an M.B.A. in
Marketing from the University of Saint Thomas.
Jon Cobb is Executive Vice President of
Global Marketing of Stratasys, Ltd., the position he has held since
2010. Cobb also held the position of Vice President and General
Manager for the Dimension 3D printing business unit of Stratasys since
January 2002. He joined the company as Vice President of Marketing in
August 1995. Before joining Stratasys, he served as Vice President of
Sales and Marketing for Westec Security, Inc., and held various
management-level sales and marketing positions with Lockheed Martin's
Cobb received a B.S. degree from the
University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jeff DeGrange is Vice President of
Direct Digital Manufacturing for Stratasys, Ltd.
He joined Stratasys in 2008, after spending
20 years at the Boeing Company, where he led innovative material and
process techniques in the areas of additive manufacturing, reverse
engineering and advanced manufacturing. He was one of the principal
sources to certify and qualify additive manufactured material and
processes for flight hardware used on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
military jets and the 787 Dreamliner production aircraft programs.
DeGrange has a B.S. in Industrial
Engineering from the University of Iowa and an M.S. in Mechanical
Engineering from Washington University.
Sharon Steinhoff Smith is Vice President
of Marketing for Stratasys, Ltd. She has been with the company for
more than five years. She has extensive experience in
business-to-business marketing and communications. Prior to joining
Stratasys, she held marketing management positions at HID Global, a
leading manufacturer of ID card printers. She has a B.A. from Winona
State University in communications, with expertise in brand management
and content marketing.
Three-dimensional (3D) printing
is a very disruptive technology, similar to the early widespread use
of computers in the 1980s, say Stratasys, Ltd., executives Jim Bartel,
Jon Cobb, Jeff DeGrange and Sharon Steinhoff Smith. Stratasys is a
fast-growing, Eden Prairie-based 3D printing company, doing both
design and manufacturing of 3D printers, as well as production of
low-volume, end-use parts through 3D printing. The products are used
for a variety of purposes and industries, including those in the
Bartel notes that it's a very competitive
environment to find people with the skills the company needs.Cobb says
the most effective way for government to support the growth of the 3D
industry is to fund training in the needed skills as part of the
curriculum in high schools and postsecondary institutions. He says
elementary and middle school is not too early to introduce some
elements of technical and scientific thinking that would prepare
students to learn these skills. Cobb says the investment in education
would do more to improve Minnesota's competitiveness than spending
public money on incentives to attract or keep businesses in various
cities in the state.
Cobb says important reasons Stratasys is
located in Eden Prairie is that the company started in an incubator
corridor in Eden Prairie and that the city has a core of high-tech
companies. Smith notes, too, that the company has a large core of very
good, long-tenure employees, many of whom live in Eden Prairie or in
De Grange says Minnesota, and the U.S. as a
whole, could learn from two models, one in Germany and one in Ohio.
The German model of teaching applied science requires students to
rotate between time in industry and time in school. When the students
graduate from university, they are ready to apply what they've learned
to various industries. And Ohio has a multidimensional initiative
called Ohio Third Frontier that aims to make Ohio the country's
largest manufacturing state.
printing has been around for 25 years. Jon Cobb offered background
on 3D printing and on Stratasys during those 25 years. Chuck Hall, who
started 3D printing in California, began by helping designers and
engineers in the design process. Since that time, Cobb said, 3D
printing has proliferated from the lower end of the consumer
marketplace all the way to medical applications, such as body
implants, and to various manufacturing uses. It's used in a wide
variety of processes and industries.
The 3D printing technology varies some by
company, but the principle is the same. The process starts with some
type of data, which is either created using computer-aided design
(CAD) or data that's scanned by computer. Then the data is sliced into
thin layers, usually around 1,000th of an inch down to
10,000th of an inch.
Once the layers are sliced, he said, 3D
printers print the object layer upon layer. "If you take a particular
layer and build it up," he said, "then you end up getting a part. In
our particular case, most of the parts we make are made out of some
type of plastic."
Cobb described three different methods used
to produce the layers used in the 3D production process: one uses
thermoplastics, one uses photosensitive plastics that include rigid
and rubber-like materials, and one uses a wax-like material. He
described the processes as similar to "a factory in a box" and said
metals may be used in the future.
3D printing content comes from variety of
places. Cobb said early on, concepts were developed with sketches
done on paper. He said 3D content today comes from virtual design, the
medical field, 3D scanning and free modeling, such as Google SketchUps.
He said there is also a lot of untapped potential opportunity in the
architectural community. The 3D printing process moves from concepts
to prototypes and then into the production process.
There are about 70 3D printing companies in
the world. Stratasys both designs and makes 3D printers to sell
and uses them in its own printing production unit. The printers range
in cost from $1,000 to $500,000. Stratasys was the fourth or fifth
company involved in 3D printing, starting 22 years ago. Since then,
Cobb said, the company has either merged with or acquired a number of
companies. In December 2012, company merged with an Israeli
competitor, Objet Geometries, and became Stratasys, Ltd.
Stratasys has about 11 or 12 primary
competitors in 3D printing. There are about 70 3D companies, most of
them small, with a number located in China. Most are U.S.-based, with
a few in Europe and Israel. Jim Bartel said the 3D printing industry
is growing fastest in Asian countries, especially in China, which has
outspent the U.S. by a large amount in helping to develop the
technology. He said 3D printing is bringing some jobs back to the U.S.
to allow better control over the manufacturing process.
Stratasys has many different customers,
ranging from Fortune 1,000 companies to one-person shops to people
using it as a hobby. Cobb said a lot of industries use 3D printing:
"If someone can design it, if someone can think about it, someone can
Jeff DeGrange said the 3D technology is
being used in two different worlds: for making prototypes for product
development and for manufacturing, i.e., for making parts other
industries need. He focused his comments on its use for manufacturing.
3D printing is a very disruptive technology.
"We're in the emerging stages,"
DeGrange said. "I see it as being a very disruptive technology, like
computers were back in the early '80s." But, he said, there are a
number of things that have to happen before it is adopted into
The community needs more information about what 3D printing is and
how to apply it. The majority doesn't understand how to use it in
manufacturing. They need more design information, more material
property information from credible sources and predictive software
tools on how to analyze parts before they are actually made.
The community needs to know how fast the 3D machines are and
whether they can build parts cost effectively. Now the machines
can build hundreds or thousands of parts, but not hundreds of
thousands. As the machines get faster, the number of parts built
will go from 5,000 to maybe 100,000 parts.
Companies must look at the cost of parts coming out of 3D printing
compared with traditional manufacturing. As time goes on, the cost
of materials and 3D machines will go down. That will push out the
number of parts it makes sense for industries to make through 3D
In response to a question about where people
are working on the science of 3D printing, DeGrange mentioned several
industry groups in the U.S. and Europe; big companies working on their
own, but not sharing the information; some universities, such as the
University of Texas, Georgia Tech, and the University of Louisville
(Kentucky); and the Department of Energy. He pointed out the
University of Minnesota is not involved in this work.
Jim Bartel said Red Eye, the 3D printing
unit of Stratasys, also located in Eden Prairie, uses the 3D printers
that Stratasys manufactures and designs to actually make low-volume,
end-use parts for customers. He said Red Eye is doing more of that all
the time, including in the medical world.
It's a very competitive environment to find
people with the skills the company needs. Bartel said Red Eye is
hiring across the board: sales people, mechanical and electrical
engineers, machine operators (although, even though the company has 90
3D printing machines going 24/7 at Red Eye, it needs only two machine
operators per shift), customer service people, and technicians with
computer-aided design (CAD) skills.
He said employees must have CAD skills,
writing skills, basic English language skills, and the mostly
self-taught design skills for additive manufacturing, another term for
3D printing. Bartel said these skills should be taught at both the
high school and college levels and promoted the use of more
internships and apprenticeships.
The U.S. could learn from the German model
of teaching applied science. DeGrange said he likes the German
model of teaching applied science by requiring their technical people,
whether in engineering or material science, to rotate going into
industry and then back to school, etc. "When these students graduate
from university," he said, "they really know how to apply the
technology for industries." He believes the U.S. could learn from the
When asked what schools Stratasys employees
come from, Bartel said some come from the University of Minnesota,
although those students don't have additive manufacturing-specific
skills; the University of Wisconsin, both Madison and Stout; Dunwoody;
from local vocational institutions; and from all around the country.
He pointed out that the company does tours
every quarter for students from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
"They don't have the exact courses or curriculum, but the students are
so interested that they're doing it on their own," he said. "These are
the people we want to be hiring."
Stratasys started in an incubator corridor
in Eden Prairie and the city has a core of high-tech companies.
In response to a question about why
Stratasys has decided to be located in Eden Prairie and to stay in
Minnesota, Sharon Steinhoff Smith said the company was founded in Eden
Prairie and has a core of employees with extremely long tenure. "Many
employees have come to the company and have grown with it," she said.
"One reason the company stays here is that we've got good employees
who do great work and like to be here."
Smith also said Eden Prairie has a core of
high-tech companies. "We have grown tremendously even in the last two
or three years," she said. "We have the main building, the Red Eye
building and three or four other buildings and we're continuing to
expand. But we're trying to stay in the Eden Prairie area to keep our
campus together." She said Stratasys did not build the buildings
Cobb added that the company originally
started in an incubator corridor in Eden Prairie, which was partially
funded by the University of Minnesota. "A key component of the company
being in Eden Prairie and probably being in Minnesota was this
incubator model set up on Hwy. 169," he said.
Business incubators are organizations geared
toward speeding up the growth and success of startup and early-stage
companies. They're often a good path to capital from public and
private investors and provide access to services like accountants and
lawyers and to coaching and networking connections through the staff
and other entrepreneurs at the incubator.
A technical skills cluster allows Stratasys
to hire good employees from other companies nearby. An interviewer
commented that he thinks skills clusters are more important than
business clusters or technology clusters. Bartel responded that the
company is able to hire people from other companies because their
technical skill sets transfer.
In response to a question, Bartel said
Stratasys employees come mainly from Eden Prairie and other relatively
close suburbs, such as New Prague, Orono, Victoria, Chanhassen,
Chaska, Waconia, Savage and Prior Lake.
Stratasys has 1,600 employees worldwide,
with 450 in Eden Prairie. Red Eye has 65 employees. The company has
had 16 percent employee growth this year and is looking at the same
growth next year.
NAMII is an initiative to set up additive
manufacturing technology centers around the country. In response
to a question, DeGrange said President Barack Obama brought up the
National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in a
speech in February 2013, where he talked about leveraging additive
manufacturing and 3D printing in order to restore manufacturing in the
DeGrange said three people from Stratasys
serve on the NAMII board and explained that the only NAMII technology
center set up so far is located in Youngstown, Ohio. People can come
in to the center, which has additive manufacturing technology, and
understand the technology and how they can apply it to their business.
NAMII wants to put in other centers around the country.
DeGrange said Minnesota should be positioned
for one of these centers, because the state has such a diversified
economy and 3D technology touches 12 different major industries in
product development and manufacturing. But DeGrange said he doesn't
know whether any individual, group or public agency is actually
driving the effort for Minnesota to become a NAMII state.
Minnesota could learn from the Ohio Third
Frontier initiative. DeGrange said Ohio would probably be the
leading contender for a NAMII center, but it already has the first and
only NAMII center in existence in Youngstown. The state has the Ohio
Third Frontier (OTF) initiative, which is aimed at making Ohio the
leading state in the country for manufacturing. Ohio invests money in
workforce development and technology development, with the investments
channeled both into large and small manufacturing firms in the state
and into the universities.
"I think Ohio is probably a model that
Minnesota would want to take a close look at," he said. States like
Michigan and Tennessee are looking at the OTF model. He said Ohio is
looking at things like the tax structure for corporations and what the
right levels of regulation are. "It's multi-dimensional in Ohio and I
think they're doing a fairly good job," DeGrange said.
Metal materials are still a very small piece
of the 3D printing business, but that might change in the future.
Cobb said most of the activity today is in thermoplastics. Stratasys
is looking at possibly using s in the future. He said metal is
interesting, but there is still huge opportunity in the thermoplastic
area that hasn't even been scratched yet.
An important contribution public policy
could make is to address issue of adding training in CAD and 3D
printing to the curricula of high schools and postsecondary
institutions. An interviewer asked what things could be done in
the public policy area or what the public policy barriers are that
could be addressed to move this technology forward. DeGrange said the
big area is how to drive this into the educational sectors on multiple
fronts: (1) How do we set up the vocational schools so the students
will understand CAD? and (2) How do we drive training in this
technology into the high schools?
In response to a question, DeGrange said
there are simple, inexpensive 3D printing machines that could go into
high schools. Cobb said Stratasys has installed 3D equipment into
elementary schools, high schools, four-year universities and two-year
technical colleges, especially in the South. DeGrange said there are
some initiatives, but it needs to be on a larger scale, perhaps even
in the middle schools. "What can we do to really instill the right
kind of thinking and use of these new technologies in schools?" he
asked. He noted that the students are very tech savvy already.
An interviewer asked if there is a way that
Stratasys can have influence on decisions made in public education
from preschool to high school, at the university level and in
vocational schools, such as helping develop the curricula and
influencing the way teachers are trained.
DeGrange said NAMII offers an opportunity to
have some influence, but said the company has no voice with the
National Science Foundation. Smith said the company does more work at
the individual school level. Stratasys engineers work with a science
camp that brings in 100 students. The company has an extreme redesign
competition for middle school, high school and college challenging
students to design new ways of doing things.
Public money going into education, rather
than into incentives to keep or attract companies, helps improve the
competitiveness of the U.S. and of Minnesota. An interviewer asked
whether public money should be invested in attracting businesses or
business expansion, using things like tax-increment financing (TIF),
or, instead, should it be invested in the schools. Cobb said if we're
trying to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. and of Minnesota,
money going to education puts the state and local cities into a better
The other type of public investment, he
said, is to bring jobs into a certain area. "This company hasn't
played that card at all," he said. He said Stratasys is a good
business for a community to have, since it's a clean company and
offers high-paying jobs in manufacturing, science and math. "It's
important for the city of Eden Prairie and Minnesota to keep a company
like ours here," he said.
An interviewer asked how much the tax
environment in Minnesota affects the company's decision about staying
in the state. Cobb replied that Stratasys is now an Israeli company
and that one factor in that decision was that taxes in Israel are much
lower than in Minnesota or the U.S.
In response to a question about the impact
of the regulatory atmosphere on the 3D printing industry, DeGrange
said the company's manufacturing is very clean, so environmental
regulations are not an issue.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
David Broden, Janis Clay, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,
Jan Hively, Dan Loritz (Chair), Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky,
Tim McDonald, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and