Last week, UK-based 3D printing company Satori launched its first piece of additive manufacturing hardware onto the market. With a strong focus on dental applications and new partnership programme designed to facilitate collaboration with ‘global innovators and creatives’, TCT spoke to the company’s CEO Chengxi Wang about Satori’s ambitions, technology, and how 3D printing could become even more crucial in a post-pandemic world.
Hi Chengxi. You recently launched a new 3D printing company Satori – tell us what Satori is and does.
We are headquartered in London, UK, a young team made up of innovators, creative minds and 3D industry experts. Satori means “enlightenment” in Japanese Zen. Instead of giving it a name related to 3D printing technology itself, we prefer to go beyond the technology and relate to what kind of experience we want to bring to our end consumers. Yes, we are a technology company, but our starting point is human beings: What “aha” moment we would like our customers to achieve? And then we go back to 3D printing technology to empower that.
The 3D printers we develop are for professional use, such as dentistry, engineering and jewellery. By saying professional, we not only produce the 3D printers with a high quality standard, but most importantly we focus on the integration of our Satori 3D printer, proprietary industrial-level materials, and software to ensure successful quality print. 3D printing is not a silo process, but a systematic process from the moment of loading the file to putting the physical print in your hand.
Besides the products, we also provide guidance on how to optimise the 3D printing process to achieve the customers’ business goals. In this regard, we don’t want to position ourselves merely as a designer and manufacturer of 3D printers, but a problem solver for our clients. We will not be satisfied unless Satori helps clients to improve work efficiency, save long-term manufacturing costs or push the boundaries of their product innovation.
You just introduced your first product, the ST1600 3D printer – what makes this machine unique?
The ST1600 is a compact, desktop sized professional printer. What makes it unique is that it finds a good balance among efficiency, high performance and affordability. We use MSLA technology, meaning that it retains the high quality of SLA technology but at the same time speeds up the printing process by curing one layer at a time, leading to a full build area to be printed just as quick as a single part.
Regarding affordability, DLP technology has been quite a norm in industrial-level 3D printers. However, what comes with that technology is a relatively high price. We noticed that with our coordination among Satori 3D printer engineering, customised resin properties to our 3D printer and software setting, we are able to deliver competitive print quality for industrial practice at a much lower price. 3D printing is a holistic approach, we focus on seeing the forest, rather than just one tree.
The 3D printing hardware market is already pretty crowded – what was missing from the industry’s current offerings that you’re aiming to address with the ST1600?
Push the boundary of possibilities. Professional 3D printers are not just a replacement of traditional manufacturing to make things done faster and cheaper. Instead, it’s about opening up people’s mind and solving real problems that couldn’t be easily solved before. To achieve that, we not only provide 3D printers and materials with a high quality, but also our team’s creativity on how the same technology or material can be used for a client’s particular purpose. For example, I used to run a jewellery brand, where I asked several 3D printing service companies around the world to 3D print my interconnected bracelet as a whole. No company was able to pick up my task, explaining that the current limitation is six interconnected parts, while mine had over 20 moving parts. When we were developing the Satori 3D printer, we took this bracelet as our first challenge. After several rounds of trial and error, we were able to print out this fine interconnected bracelet in one goal. When we held this bracelet that was rejected as impossible, we experienced this “enlightenment (Satori)”, which we want to pass along to our customers.
Dental has been identified as a key market for this technology – what makes the ST1600 so suited to the dental industry?
First, it’s our integration of 3D printer, proprietary material and software setting, which produces high-quality print with minimal shrinkage. This is very important for a dental practice, where the print will be used for diagnosis and surgery.
Second, we are user-friendly. The Satori ST1600 is noise-free, making it suitable for a quiet, clinic environment. It has a compact size that fits a 31cm squared desk area, but at the same time is efficient enough to fit seven aligners in the build platform, reducing the production of each aligner under one hour.
Finally, our professional service plan provided by 3D printing experts with experience in dental will help our dentist clients shorten the learning curve.
How do material innovations fit into this? Will you be introducing biocompatible materials specifically for this sector?
Yes, we are constantly experimenting and innovating our material. In fact, in our Premium Support, the client can enjoy an Insider Programme, where they will receive our new resin to experiment and give us feedback. Regarding biocompatible, our Surgical Guide resin can be put into the mouth for performing operations. For even longer contact with the human body, we are in the process of developing this material and will be with our customers soon.
You’ve also mentioned a number of other industries where this technology could be applied – which areas or applications do you see it providing the most value?
There are no industry limitations, the machine is suitable for a wide range of professional industries from arts and culture to medical and tech industries. Our variety of five professional resins have its focus on dentistry, but are developed with the properties to be used in other industries as well. For example, Iron Grey and Clear Pro resins are perfect to create prototypes in engineering; Flexible Gingiva Pink has the rubbery texture, suitable to produce flexible material, such as a reusable makeup remover pad (imagine how much cotton can be saved); Emerald Green Casting resin suitable for jewellery designers.
Have you been working with any beta customers prior to launch?
Yes, before launching, we’ve already partnered with companies in jewellery, dentistry and engineering to test out our machines and materials to give us improvement feedback. Internally, we’ve had multiple versions of prototypes due to this iteration process. Even after releasing Satori ST1600, our development and innovation process will not stop. We aim to bring more types of industrial level machines to suite customers’ more detailed needs in the near future.
Before Satori, you served as CEO at another well-known 3D printing company, MyMiniFactory. Coming from a broad 3D printing marketplace, are there any lessons there that you’ve applied to this new venture?
My experience at MyMiniFactory was an inspiring one. As a marketplace, I talked with many 3D designers and makers to learn how they perceived this technology and what they saw as pain points. This helped me adopt a human-centred approach when I developed Satori. In my mind, I wasn’t imagining an abstract market represented with statistics, but rather the real people I talked with. Their excitement and their frustration all became the driving force behind Satori.
At launch you talked about how 3D printing is becoming more crucial than ever in the current pandemic world – how do you see this heightened interest in AM continuing as the world hopefully returns to some sense of normality?
The pandemic is a catalyst that makes more and more people recognise the potential of 3D printing to solve the real problems. As our world returns to some sense of normality, this potential to solve the real problems will only grow bigger. First, 3D printing helps us rethink supply chains. Although the pandemic can be gone, the business world is inevitably filled with risk of disruption and uncertainty, and 3D printing localises the production and puts control under the business owners. This goes true in a general business setting without pandemic. Second, 3D printing is not just a technology, but a way of thinking. It’s not a technology to replace traditional manufacturing, but a new perspective of product design. For example, with lattice structure, design can be optimised for better functionality and less weight.
Have you faced any challenges as a start-up launching during this time?
Everyday is a challenge. Not just from a business sense, but a psychological marathon. It can be lonely, as you see people withdrawing from their business activities and becoming more conservative. However, from a perspective of bigger scope, I realised this is what technology is about. A true viable technology should thrive in a difficult time, as a problem solver. By empowering companies and individuals with our 3D printing solutions, we form a community to support each other, where the loneliness and challenge is gone, left are possibilities and creativity.
You’re also launching a partnership programme, inviting collaborators to work on solving crucial manufacturing challenges – can you tell us more about that?
As previously mentioned, we recognised our responsibility as a technology company to help businesses and individuals to solve problems in this challenging time. Our Partnership Programme was born out of this mission. In our Partnership Programme, we invite innovative companies and designers from all industries to collaborate on initiatives with a goal to make an impact, and solve a particular problem traditional manufacturing might not be able to.
The programme is targeted for innovators and designers that wish to bring their vision to life through 3D printing. The Satori team will guide selected partners to optimise product development and produce viable prototypes with Satori 3D printers. Including design consultation and printing guidance from our team of 3D printing experts, and a complimentary service of 3D printing their product.
We look forward to partnering with innovators to solve issues from all areas whether it be technology, medicine, sports, arts, or lifestyle.
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