Taking Over 3D Systems: Vyomesh Joshi on His New Role
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on December 21, 2016 |
New 3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi speaks with ENGINEERING.com about his plans for the 3D printing com...

At a tour of 3D Systems' Healthcare Technology Center outside of Denver, the company’s new CEO, Vyomesh Joshi, provided insight to press and investors about his plans for the future of 3D Systems. It may have been surprising that Joshi would be present for the facility tour, but after hearing about his vision for the company, it became clear that, in some ways, the Healthcare Technology Center was key to the 3D Systems roadmap—not because Joshi plans to make 3D Systems a medical business, but because he finds the firm's healthcare division to be the ideal model for the other verticals in which 3D Systems is involved.

ENGINEERING.com spoke with 3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi at the Healthcare Technology Center in Littleton, Colo. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)
ENGINEERING.com spoke with 3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi at the Healthcare Technology Center in Littleton, Colo. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

ENGINEERING.com had an opportunity to speak with Joshi, as well as executive vice president and chief operating officer of healthcare Kevin McAlea, to gain insight into what that roadmap looks like.

Out of Retirement

Joshi got his start as a tech executive by climbing the corporate ladder of HP, starting as an R&D engineer and working his way up to president of the imaging and printing group. In that role, he was able to double the operating profits of the division over the course of 11 years. Without delving into the role of HP's management at the time, we can say that Joshi ended his 32-year career with the tech giant when Meg Whitman took over in 2012.

3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

Why did Joshi leave the comforts of retirement at the age of 62? “I got really bored,” Joshi said. What could stir him out of his boredom more than an exciting advanced manufacturing technology like 3D printing? According to the CEO, it wasn't just 3D printing that pulled him out of retirement. It was 3D Systems founder Chuck Hull and his latest 3D printing platform, the Figure 4.

“This opportunity came in and I said, ‘Oh, wow, I can make a real contribution here,’” Joshi said. “I had a conversation with Chuck Hull, when he showed me the Figure 4, and I thought that it was really interesting. So I said, ‘Hey, this could be fun. I can take all of my knowledge and really apply that with a great team.’”

He added, “I was retired and I didn’t have to do this thing, but when I saw the guy who invented the whole industry excited about what he could do with the technology and when I looked at the portfolio…” Though its competitor Stratasys has the largest market share in the industry, 3D Systems easily has the broadest product portfolio, including stereolithography, ColorJet Printing, MultiJet Printing, Direct Metal Printing, selective laser sintering and, with Figure 4, continuous digital light processing technologies on the additive manufacturing front. But it also develops software, through Geomagic and Cimatron, and mixed-reality products, through Simbionix.

With a bird's eye view of the entire company, Joshi began to understand his role in the company. “Then I looked at the operational problems. Once I joined, I talked to Kevin [McAlea], and all of the puzzle pieces fell into place. I knew I needed to augment some of the teams, but I really thought that we could make this company something really big.”

Beginning with Healthcare

Joshi sees what McAlea has done with the firm's healthcare division as a successful model to follow with 3D Systems' other verticals. By segmenting the market, as he did with HP's printing business, and then extrapolating the company's healthcare model to those segments—currently outlined by Joshi as the aerospace and defense, automotive and durable goods markets—he believes it would be possible to make 3D Systems into a tech giant.

In explaining the strategy, Joshi began with his work at HP. “When I was at HP, it was great to really drive the transformation of a printing industry and build a big business there. That was very exciting because I learned a lot about starting with the customer, taking over the technology and creating a great value proposition. The other thing is—especially in the graphics business that we built from scratch—there was a big transformation happening as we went from analog to digital. High-level presses had been the way people were making books and magazines and doing marketing collateral. Then, you could begin to do those things digitally all of a sudden.”

He continued, “The approach that I took then was to segment the market and understand the use cases. If you took the use cases and created an end-to-end workflow, then you would be able to move from analog to digital. So, when I started working at 3D Systems, I first understood the core technology platforms and the great kind of products we had. Then, I talked to Kevin [McAlea] about how he built his healthcare business similar to how I had with customer segmentation in terms of workflows. I said, ‘If you can take this technology and move from prototyping to manufacturing and apply the same principles that Kevin applied in creating a vertical, I think we can take this company to the next level.’”

The workflow that McAlea has created for the healthcare division sees 3D printing as one step in a larger process. This process sees physical objects digitized through 3D scanning or specialty software and products designed with CAD. These models can then be simulated with simulation software, including 3D Systems' Simbionix virtual surgery modules, before they are manufactured in the physical world with 3D printing. Afterwards, inspection tools perform essential quality control procedures, and the management of the end product takes place.

Joshi said that he has made McAlea not only head of healthcare for 3D Systems, but head of metal 3D printing in the hopes that the executive can build 3D Systems' aerospace and defense division in the same way. McAlea believes that, while aerospace and healthcare may seem fundamentally different, the two industries have much more in common than one might think.

“There are differences between medical and aerospace, once you get into the details. The medical field has all of the issues associated with biocompatibility and mechanical properties are important, but not critical, whereas, with aerospace, mechanical properties are absolutely essential, but companies don't worry about things like biocompatibility,” McAlea said. “But a lot of the building blocks to be

A 3D-printed cervical implant. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

A 3D-printed cervical implant. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

successful in these advanced manufacturing applications are the same.”

Some of the building blocks McAlea referred to are segmenting the market and use cases, developing products to meet the requirements of those markets and hiring the right people from the right industries. In the case of the healthcare division, the company already has a cohesive workflow, a product portfolio tailored to specific use cases and a skilled staff that is knowledgeable about 3D printing in healthcare due to 15 years in the industry.

3D Systems just needs to ensure that the same model is executed in its aerospace and defense decision. According to Joshi and McAlea, the company is basically already there. “As an example, here [at the Healthcare Technology Center], we have ISO13485 certification for [producing medical devices],” McAlea said. “We had someone do a gap analysis for us for what would it take to get AS9100 aerospace certification. The gap was very small. We can do that work in about three months for low cost. If we were starting from scratch, it would take years.”

The Future of 3D Printing with 3D Systems

Reading our previous article on the Healthcare Technology Center, it's clear that 3D printing is already having a big impact on the medical industry. With the ability to plan surgeries with patient-specific models and produce patient-specific devices, the benefits seem obvious on an anecdotal level. McAlea pointed out that clinical studies are now reinforcing stories of 3D printing's benefits in medicine with actual data.

Now, the technology must see greater adoption, regardless of the industry, in order for its impact to be truly felt. Joshi and McAlea pointed out that it's often the younger generation that is more quick to adopt 3D printing, while older professionals will fall back on years of experience with tried and true techniques. While an established surgeon, for instance, might not be as quick to incorporate patient-specific models to plan a surgery, McAlea has found that new surgeons can't see doing it any other way.

“There's always going to be a generational gap with new technology,” McAlea said. “We deal with a lot of training in cadaver labs in conjunction with our medical device partners. There, you're training all of these relatively new surgeons in surgical planning [with 3D technology]. Afterwards, most of them say they would never consider doing it any other way.”

Medical professionals using the Simbionix angiogram simulator. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)
Medical professionals using the Simbionix angiogram simulator. (Image courtesy of 3D Systems.)

He likens the situation to the adoption of flight simulators in the aerospace industry. “Pilots in the 1960s were scornful of the notion of flight simulators. Today, pilots can't go up unless they've trained for hours on simulators,” McAlea said.

Both believed that the technology would gain widespread adoption, as the younger generation begins to supplant the old. And it's the potential that this technology holds that is part of the reason that Joshi decided to come out of retirement.

“The things that we do are so meaningful,” Joshi said. “People don't usually get a chance to do this kind of stuff—to change the lives of people.” He referred to a recent surgery in which 3D Systems played a key role 3D printing presurgical models for a pair of twins joined at the skull. “Think about the McDonald twins and the impact felt by their mom and dad. We were really instrumental in making that surgery into a reality. That's a big deal.”


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