In our interview series 5Questions we ask international experts from the additive manufacturing space five questions. This time we questioned Clément Moreau, co-founder of the 3D printing cloud service Sculpteo.
Sculpteo was founded in 2009 by Eric Carreel, Jacques Lewiner and Clément Moreau who serves as CEO. The online service has integrated lots of new technologies in its services, including the most recent addition of Carbon3D´s CLIP technology based 3D Printers. But the company also develops their own technologies for the post processing of 3D printed parts. Just this week, Sculpteo released their patented Smoothing Beautifier finish for SLS parts which gives objects a beautiful glossy look.
So, how did you first make contact with additive technologies or 3D printing?
Clément Moreau: Let’s go back in time… I discovered the concept of 3D Printing in 2007 while working at Thomson (now Technicolor) as a software engineer. Technicolor was using this technology to produce prototypes fast and at a low cost. When we realized with Eric Carreel how fun it was to use a 3D Printer, we looked for a way to share this fun with other people. Because it did not exist at the time, we decided to create the company! I left Thomson (now Technicolor) in 2009 and co-founded Sculpteo with Eric Carreel to make 3D Printing technology available to everyone. Our first step was to build a very simple website where anyone was able to create or upload their 3D file and get it printed just for themselves. We got a lot of “WOW!” around us, but not very many private individuals … We then realized that even though EVERYONE would like to create something unique, VERY FEW have the motivation, energy and talent to actually make it real. That’s why since that time the professional market is the fastest growing market for us. Since 2010 Sculpteo operates its own online platform and service which offers 3D Printing for consumers, designers and professionals and manufactures objects according to demand. To share the usage 3d Printing with the rest of the world is still the main target!
In which industries do you see the most potential for your 3D printing? Did additive technology already entered industries you didn´t think of?
Yes, today’s industries are using additive technology quite naturally – just as our report on the state of 3D Printing showed*. We see many examples in many sectors such as consumer electronics, telecom, aeronautics, automobile, research. Of course, 3D Printing technology is used every day for prototyping. More and more, Sculpteo produces short series. 3D Printing technology is competitive with classic mold productions in short series. But 3D Printing technology can also be used in industrial numbers. For instance, Sculpteo furnishes 3D printed parts of the Nighthalks headset on an industrial plan. More than one century ago, technology allowed for the very first planes to be built – with the new 3d Printing revolution, we can see that the very active sector of the drone industry is now using 3D Printing, every day, on an industrial scale.
How would you describe the connections in the 3D Printing ecosystem (hardware, software, materials…)? Is one part of the ecosystem that is more important than the others?
Hardware technology offers access to methods of creating real objects that are more and more complex and refined, in materials more and more diverse. We are constantly working on new materials, such as the most flexible TPU that we released at CES this year. This new flexible plastic can reproduce the rigidity and flexibility of human organs, the performance of vehicle tires, the delicacy required by the textile industry… However, software is the core of our work. Sculpteo develops tools that allow to handle 3D files ready to use and offers our partners the possibility to commercialize 3D Printing. We no longer need to know how to code to conceive a 3D Printing object! Software tools, smartphone interfaces make access to technology more and more easy everyday.
Recently Sculpteo started using the 3D printers of Carbon3D. It seems you are always implementing the newest and best technologies. Where do you think the industry is going with new technical developments?
3D Printing is not a technology, it is a domain! A domain that innovates from one day to another. I’m not saying we are likely to print our next car at home in the near future, but we can already create real-time personalized parts of it – for instance, thanks to Carbon3D technology you mentioned. We believe that 3D Printing is already an alternative means of creating products. It’s a fantastic new era of the industry where the creation of unique pieces all over the world is as normal as sending a letter! Do you remember when you first saw a graphic coming out of a computer? I was 7, but I do remember. And when did you get your first digital camera? I was an engineer already, that’s not that long ago! Today, we are living the beginning of the unification between a 3D File and a Physical Object, just like digital cameras and photo printers made it possible to mix the notions of “picture file” and “photograph”. Today with Sculpteo Express Production, you are able to say: “I just emailed you this product parts, and you are physically receiving it” ! Incredible?
What are the next steps for Sculpteo. Can you tell us something about future plans?
Sculpteo is working a lot on improving the surface quality of the parts that we deliver. We strive to be as good as injection molding, and have the same surface quality as parts manufactured with classical technologies.
Our new patent-pending process “Smoothing Beautifier” is a giant step towards this goal. This new physicochemical process enables us to be on the leading edge of the manufacturing of real parts by 3d printing!
You also can find more 5Questions-interviews of other industry experts.