3D printing has long been used in industry. Wider applications of this technology, in turn, require the development of more sophisticated devices that would meet the needs of a variety of customers. There are tighter requirements for the printed parts as well – they have to be durable, reliable, complex in shape, and quick to manufacture. Artyom Avdeyev, founder and director of the Volgograd company Stereotech, developer of 5D printers, speaks about the company’s history and innovative functionality of their products.
Enthusiasm gets rewarded
Alexei Drobotov served as an Associate Professor at the Volgograd State Technical University Department of Production Processes Automation. In 2012, he supervised Artyom Avdeyev’s and Andrei Shvets’s final research projects for their bachelor’s degrees. The students’ and their academic adviser’s shared interests went beyond science, so they continued joint 3D research after the younger men’s graduation.
In 2016, their hobby research project evolved into starting a business – a company for the production of multi-axis 3D printers. In 2019, the company joined the Skolkovo hub as a resident.
“Initially, the project was meant for non-commercial research and relied entirely on the enthusiasm of its founders,” Artyom recalls.
However, in 2013, the team raised its first investment under the Umnik program at the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE). The first results were achieved quickly enough, making it clear that the idea had great commercial potential. Some time later the team also won a START 1 grant from the FASIE and founded the company.
The funds raised under START 2 along with first investment were used for subsequent development. The development required more than RUR 9 mio ($125K) in total. The money was spent on research and development and on employees’ salaries.
During the first stage of the project, the company developed a desktop version of the technology, receiving its first ROI three years later. The company founders plan to pay back the entire investment in 2020. They estimate that the production and industrial solutions will take two years and one year to yield first returns, respectively, because every new stage is based on the previous one and complements it.
From healthcare to aviation
Stereotech is still based in Volgograd. The company focuses on three areas: manufacturing basic 5D printers under its own brand, printing, and implementing industry-specific solutions using the 5Dtech innovative technology. 5Dtech allows printing items of any shape ensuring four times more durability than conventional technologies. The result is assured by using continuous fiber that makes products more durable than aluminum while having half of its weight. Stereotech produces both desktop and industrial printers.
“A 5D printer is drastically different from a conventional 3D printer as five dimensions are involved instead of three. This solution is unique in many ways: we offer production equipment that allows for making composite items with a sound three-dimensional structure that don’t require post-processing and support removal. The software prepares the model for multi-axis printing by default, which even large companies such as Siemens Max cannot do,” Artyom says.
The components made using the multi-axis printing technology are used in medicine, aircraft building and automobile industry. The company is currently developing industrial solutions for manufacturing customized, sturdy leg prosthetic sockets, as well as composite devices for aircraft and automobile manufacturing.
In addition, the manufacturing of components, including single piece or small batch production has always been in demand, especially among companies that need to promptly replace a broken equipment component. 5D printing allows for promptly making the necessary part and reducing waiting time. The service is popular in various sectors, from restaurant and hotel businesses to medicine and fitness clubs.
The company currently employs eight people; most of them work in the office. The team comprises researchers and business people, and everyone does their own job. Stereotech is engaged in the entire development process, such as the development of software for the printers and unique software for model preparation, as well as design of parts and electronic circuits. Stereotech engages specialists to assemble printers, with a pilot batch already sold by now and the company ready to launch full-scale production.
Stereotech’s team makes a lot of effort to promote its products. The company is actively involved in exhibitions and competitions, including international ones. In 2019, Stereotech presented its products at the international exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany. The company has also signed a partnership agreement with the Belgian company Capvidia to open its representative office in Europe.
The company products have received awards at Russian exhibitions. In February 2019, the multi-axis 5D printing project won the S7 Startup Challenge competition, which was organized jointly with Skolkovo Foundation. In October 2019, Stereotech won in the Innovation Project of the Year category at the 3D Print Expo exhibition. This year, the project of multi-axis technology of additive 5D printing won in the Industrial Technologies category at the startup competition in the Innopolis IT park; the company then received an invitation to take part in the Startup Village large-scale conference held by Skolkovo Foundation.
Stereotech’s team members often directly approach potential clients; at the exhibition in Germany, contact information was received from over 40 potential customers on day one.
“Currently, we have more than 200 potential clients. These are companies from the USA, EU and Russia that operate in various industrial sectors, with major interest shown by aviation businesses,” Artyom says.
The company’s plans for 2020 include developing a solution for multi-axis printing with the use of composite materials as well as attracting investments for large-scale introduction of the technology in aircraft engineering.
By Christina Firsova