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Nano Dimension's Simon Fried talks about reinventing the market for conductive inks and PCB prototyping

Founded in 2012 by a collection of seasoned entrepreneurs – Sharon Fima, Amit Dror, Simon Fried and Dagi Ben-Noon – Nano Dimension is a company focused on the development of advanced 3D printing technologies and associated materials. Along the way, it has developed a technology that combines inkjet, 3D printing and advanced nanotechnology.

Simon Fried, initially Nano Dimension’s chief marketing officer, is now its chief business officer. A consultant and marketing advisor for 15 years, Fried began his career as a strategy consultant at the Monitor Group.

Part Israeli, part Swedish, the Anglo-French educated Fried has been able to bring considerable experience to the company, whether in terms of business development or in raising funds for start-ups.

“For companies operating in hardware or chemistry, as we are, raising seed capital can often prove impossible,” he explains. “For many, it’s the kiss of death as most of the funds that are available tend to chase those developing apps or software.

“Despite that, we’ve managed to navigate the ‘valley of death’ and come out the other side with a healthy bank balance and products in their Beta phase of development. We’re a listed company and our funding has come from a select group of investors, rather than through an Angel or venture capitalist.”

According to Fried the company has benefitted from a combination of good timing, luck, stable markets and last, but no means least, a very compelling story.

“Among our primary products is the first 3D printer that is dedicated to printing multilayer PCBs and advanced nanotechnology based conductive and dielectric inks,” Fried explains. “We have also developed a conductive ink that can be used for ultra-rapid prototyping of complicated multilayer printed boards.”

Earlier this year at CES in Las Vegas, the company unveiled the DragonFly 2020 3D printer that has been designed to combine technological advances in inkjets, 3D printing and nanotechnology into one product.

Navigating the perilous runway from start-up to product launch isn’t easy, but the launch of this printer has heralded an exciting time for the business.

“Since the company was set up, we have worked hard to create a centre of excellence out of a team with years of experience in key fields such as chemistry, inkjet deposition and software,” Fried says, adding “that team has been successful in combining those skills in material, deposition, printer and software which means that we are now able to offer what we think is a valuable manufacturing alternative for PCBs.”

This year’s first quarter has been exciting for the company, with it gaining momentum and firming its position as a leading player in the 3D printed electronics industry.

Among some significant achievements have been the company’s listing on NASDAQ in March and the filing of a number of new patent applications to advance its proprietary technologies.

“The launch of the DragonFly2020 3D printer earlier this year went very well,” says Fried, and the company has now signed an agreement with Flextronics to serve as the printer’s primary manufacturer and supplier.

“This agreement supports our plans for the delivery stage of our printers towards the end of 2016,” Fried explained.

According to Fried, the company’s vision to merge 3D printing with printed electronics is not intended for makers, but rather for the ‘industrial business end of the market’.

“Our focus has always been on the enterprise market, which means that we have to look at everything from scalability and the materials used to develop a printer with high enough resolution to provide the components used in electronics.”

Building multilayer PCBs for professional grade printed electronics requires high quality and predictable materials and equipment.

“Companies that are involved in electronics manufacturing and design typically outsource production, are investing significant capital and experiencing long turnaround times with PCB prototypes and that’s the market we are after.

“We believe these types of company are looking for a cost-effective, fast and safe means for prototyping and we are looking to supply them with an alternative solution that will be able to provide them with a multilayer PCB prototyping service in house that will be faster and more flexible.”

Research conducted earlier this year by Nano Dimension amongst more than 2000 potential customers, including engineers and PCB designers, threw up some interesting findings, according to Fried.

“We used a survey to better understand their needs; how much they spent on prototyping, how complex were their PCB designs in a bid to get a better understanding of the market.”

While the bulk of the respondents were from North America, the survey brought in results from around the world, including nearly every European nation, Australia, India, Israel, and a variety of Asian, African and South American nations.

Respondents included a mix of company sizes, with nearly 75 percent working for companies of fewer than 500 employees, and slightly more than one quarter working for companies with over 500 workers.

The research found that 93% of companies worked with short run, low volume external PCB prototyping services at some point each year; that PCBs were being designed with a much higher layer count, so prototyping was becoming more complex and expensive; and many were worried about the loss of IP as a result of using external companies to supply prototypes.

“The off-site PCB prototyping process has many downsides,” says Fried. “It’s expensive, it’s time consuming and it puts intellectual property at risk. However, I believe that our survey reflects a market that’s ready for 3D printing, perhaps ushering in a new era of PCB engineering.

“I think we’ve reached a point when engineers will be able to print their own quality multilayer PCB prototypes in house cheaply and quickly.”

Simon Fried

Simon Fried, as a strategy consultant and marketing advisor, has worked with multinationals and start-ups, across a broad range of industries, including financial services, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), automotive, retail, medical devices and software.

Past positions include roles with Monitor Company, the Financial Services Authority, Oxford Risk, Mountainview, Oxford University and Eternegy.


Author
Neil Tyler

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