People weren’t familiar with printing or even aware of it in the early 1900s. The deciding factor back then wasn’t the need. However, printing is currently significantly influenced by both need and quality. It acquired a new type of 3-Dimensional form, thanks to digitization. It now plays a crucial part in how things have developed over the years.
Every single regular process that was carried out in the past has been altered by digitalization. Most importantly, printing evolved into 3D printing. The main benefit of 3D printing is that it saves time and can be used with various manufacturing machines.
Dr. Henrike Wonneberger’s concept of taking 3D printing and giving it an industrial component was what started the Replique company. She is both a Co-founder and the COO. Replique is a platform that fully supports the advantages and future of the industrial 3D printing sector.
Replique offers quick, simple printing without requiring its elaborate, expensive infrastructure that upholds the value of digital chains. These digital chains have a strong emphasis on the needs of the customer.
Without further ado, let’s delve in and know more about it!
Please brief us about your company and the notions that encouraged its inception.
Replique is part of BASF’s internal incubator program, Chemovator GmbH, and has enabled the first fully encrypted digital inventory 3D printing/additive manufacturing (AM) platform that offers Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) a secure and sustainable means of providing parts on-demand, anytime, anywhere, to their customers.
We achieve this by combining our digital inventory platform with a global decentralized 3D printing network of AM professionals. Via this combination, we offer OEMs an end-to-end solution from design to manufacturing and part shipment.
We started the company as we noticed a need for OEMs to digitize their manufacturing processes to keep their production costs down while increasing part availability at the same time. Digitizing part designs eliminates the need for parts storage and the disposal of old, obsolete parts. Moreover, decentralized and on-demand manufacturing reduces transport costs and lead time, having a positive knock-on impact on customer satisfaction.
Kindly tell us about the featured person(s) and their professional journey so far.
Dr. Henrike Wonneberger, after her graduation in Business Chemistry and her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research and the University of Mainz, over the past ten years Henrike Wonneberger has gained various professional experiences at BASF. First, starting as a lab team lead in Organic Electronics Research.
Henrike was part of the core team building BASF’s subsidiary trinamiX GmbH and the business model innovation at the digitalization department of BASF. She is now one of the co-founders and COO of Replique.
What are the core values, vision, and mission of your company?
Quality, reproducibility, and security are our core values because these reflect the key concerns of our OEM customers. Our mission is to provide OEMs with high-quality, reproducible parts so that every part produced meets the same quality standards. Through our offering, we’re enabling OEMs to cost-efficiently produce parts from a batch size of just one, with close to zero fixed costs, as there are no tooling or minimum order quantities required.
When it comes to the supply chain, via our offering, OEMs can reduce warehousing and transport costs, limit environmental impact and improve resiliency. Our vision and mission are to increase this offering to more applications and throughout a further range of industries, as there are so many industries that stand to benefit from this decentralized manufacturing method, from agriculture to aerospace.
What are your company’s major offerings that make it different from the rest of the 3D printing market?
When we ask our customers this question, it always comes down to our end-to-end approach being the reason for choosing us. We support our customers in their whole 3D printing journey and can provide the industrial quality, and security OEMs need when working with external suppliers.
For our customers, we are a one-stop shop for additive manufacturing. Any material, any technology they need, we can provide it. And if you think about the huge number of different technologies, printer manufacturers, and print service providers on the market, a neutral partner choosing the optimal solution for their application needs can help.
We try to keep it lean for our customers and provide a digital platform for all of their 3D printing activities. Digital part storage, internal & external ordering, and quality assurance – all in one place. And we can even connect external systems, such as ERP and web shops, to make the switch to on-demand 3D printing as convenient as possible for our customers.
How is the 3D printing industry enhancing its user experiences?
The 3D printing industry is expanding rapidly as various technologies continue to develop. Each development, whether it be in hardware, software, or materials, opens up new potential markets, enhancing user experiences.
We at Replique are pushing to find ways to ensure high quality for our customers. Recently, we launched RSure, a new quality tracking module to our platform. RSure enables OEMs to track each of their 3D printed parts directly and ensure that final parts meet necessary quality requirements. This way, we provide a digital twin of the manufacturing process, storing all data associated with the production of every part.
Allowing OEMs to set quality specifications, undertake a digital inspection, and trace parts being produced via Replique before the part is sent to customers greatly improves the user experience of our customers, as they can be assured that we’re providing their customers with a high-quality product.
How is your company adapting to the evolving technological advancements to expand your offerings in the 3D printing sector?
We work closely with our trusted material and production partners, and they, in turn, provide us with the capabilities for different use cases. Each time we are faced with a new use case, we assess the capabilities we currently have through our partners and decide whether we need to find another material partner or, more likely, another production partner to fulfill this particular customer’s needs.
We are always adding to our ecosystem of trusted material and production partners, which in turn allows us to expand the applications we can offer OEMs, and the locations we can print parts. Our trusted material partners go the extra mile, developing and adapting materials to exactly meet the needs of our customers. They commit themselves to fulfilling industrial requirements within the development, manufacturing, and certification of materials, allowing qualified industrial production. With their expertise, we have no doubt we will be able to find a 3D printable material to suit all OEM requirements.
On the production partner side, we currently have a network of over 65 qualified production partners worldwide, encompassing all continents and a huge range of printing capabilities. To ensure high quality, we carefully select our partners during an onboarding process to identify their capabilities and capacity. This selection process takes time. However, we are always building this network to fit our customer’s capability and capacity needs.
What are the challenges that your company faces in its daily operations? How do you strategize your ways to deal with them?
As it stands, 3D printing is, to some extent, still limited to current designs. In the future, parts will be specifically designed for 3D printing, benefitting from reduced costs and the ability to optimize the topology and weight of a part.
In the meantime, we work with OEMs to thoroughly analyze existing part inventories to assess which parts are suitable for 3D printing, usually leading to around 7-10% of printable parts. We then validate these through a test print, selecting the right material and printing technology based on the part requirements. If we see a potential for better part performance, we can redesign it specifically for 3D printing, leading to lighter and more durable parts with increased longevity.
As an experienced leader, what advice would you like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to enter the 3D printing niche?
Find your niche within 3D printing, find your customer, and understand them. In the end, the customer is the person that decides if your business will fly or not. Don’t build a product that you think your customers need; talk to your target audience, conduct interviews, undertake research and analyze your competitors. This way, you can create a product-market fit, and monetization will surely follow.
Further, you have to think about your timeline and planned milestones. Especially in B2B business, processes tend to be slower, and you need to find a way to speak your customer’s language, get processes started and treat your customer in a way that builds long-term trust.
What are the future goals for the company? How do you envision its upscaling in the near future?
Right now, we are moving forward with OEMs that are fairly advanced in their 3D printing journey. But we also want to enable 3D printing for companies who are new in this field and
scale up business across the globe. As a digital platform, we expect strong exponential growth, partly because our current customers can extend our services for a wider part range and partly because new companies will start leveraging our solution.
We know that currently, around 7-10% of all parts are 3D printable, and our goal is to supply the highest proportion of that. If companies move to our digital inventory and on-demand 3D printing, a major cost improvement can be achieved, and sustainability can increase significantly. But to achieve this, and indeed for 3D printing to fulfill its true potential, a rethinking of current supply chains is needed.
Please share any clientele, awards, or recognitions that correctly highlight your current market position.
We are working with those in a variety of different sectors – including consumer products, automotive/transport, agriculture and construction, and heavy machinery. Our customer, German home appliances manufacturer Miele, is a good example from the consumer goods sector. The company uses our platform to quickly and cost-efficiently provide new accessories to customers. The full integration of our platform into their online shop made the shift to distributed manufacturing possible.
Demonstrating the more industrial capabilities of our offering, we’re also working with Alstom, a global leader in green and smart mobility, to produce metal serial parts. By digitizing its supply chain, Alstom can now produce small batches on demand in a decentralized production model. This enables the company to respond even better to its customer’s needs while reducing the complexity within the supply chain.