Matt Howlett – 3DXTECH

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3DXTECH, located in West Michigan, just outside of Grand Rapids, was started in 2014 by Matt Howlett to focus on specialty formulations. Leveraging 25 years of experience in the high-performance polymers industry, 3DXTECH develops solutions to difficult, technical end-use applications.

1. Which are the biggest challenges you face as a 3D printing filament manufacturer?  

“We can make filaments that are beyond what most printers can utilize.  The market is full of what I affectionately call “Yoda head printers”.  The key to utilizing functional materials is higher-performance 3D printers that can offer multi-material printing (at least model and support), heated bed and chamber, 400+ °C extruders, and at least a 300mm x 300mm x 300mm envelope.  There are a few out there, but most are rough at best.  Once the baffle patent expires that Stratasys holds, there should be some decent printers out there that utilize similar tech.”

2. How has your business evolved over the last 3 years and how much do you expect the market to keep growing?  

“We have grown almost 300% year-over-year since we started 2014.  We started by focusing on higher-performance materials and the market is finally catching on that PLA is predominantly for toys whereas specialty-compounded materials can actually satisfy real-world demands.  We just put plans in place to open a new 20,000 sq ft facility in June 2018 that will be focused exclusively on extruding filaments and printing production quality and quantity parts.”

3. Who are your biggest customers: consumers, education sector, professional sector (designers/architects/researchers) or manufacturing sector?

“We supply materials to a wide array of customers, including Lockheed, NASA, SpaceX, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Panasonic, Apple, Samsung, GM, Jabil, Intel, Raytheon and others. Our main target market is industrial since these are the companies that require performance and quality vs. the consumer market that generally values low-cost over performance or even quality. The general purpose materials market is a mess in my opinion. There are companies that sell solely on price even if their products could potentially command a premium based on their performance. Some PLA is actually pretty good stuff, but they sell it for dirt cheap and it’s out of stock half the time. Selling at a premium based on performance and quality is a foreign concept to them. I have personally visited a number of filament plants in China over the last 4 years and their more experienced machine operators make $20/day.  My operators have mortgages and we provide benefits such as healthcare coverage. 3DXTech has no interest in competing with these types of manufacturers, so we will continue to invest in materials and processes that push the limits of thermal, mechanical, electrical, and chemical performance. These will be much more difficult to knock-off and industrial customers are less-likely to accept premium performance products from manufacturers who undersold their products to begin with (especially the aerospace, semi-con, and defense customers — which are at the heart of our business).”

 

3DXTECH
4. Which are the materials you sell most of?

3DXTECH

5. What do you think needs to happen in order for 3D printing (both desktop and professional) to become more widely adopted?

“It is already becoming more widely adopted by businesses large and small because, we believe, the advancement in materials technology has allowed for the manufacture of more functional / performance parts.”

Research
Consumer Products AM 2024

This new market study from VoxelMatters provides an in-depth analysis and forecast of polymer and metal AM in the consumer products industry across the three core segments of the additive manufactu...

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