Nicole Clement is Vice President of Global Marketing and Demand Generation for 3D Systems. Nicole began her role at 3D Systems in May of 2017 and has been working in the 3D printing industry since 2015. She has a wealth of experience, based on over 20 years operating in international marketing communications, product marketing, product and service development, sales and business development roles.
Nicole, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I am the daughter of a mold and toolmaker and I grew up understanding CAD and the limitations of subtractive manufacturing. These challenges were further magnified having worked for many years in manufacturing industries like automotive, electronics and medical devices. My father always dreamt of the next generation of tool-less manufacturing and he inspired me to work in 3D printing. So when I was asked by a former colleague to join a 3D printing company after seven years in a rather mature industry such as access control, I did not hesitate.
My first experience with 3D printing was at Euromold 2014 even before I joined the industry and I was very impressed by what was already possible back then. In particular, I was drawn to 3D printed prosthetics as we were looking for a suitable 3D printed prosthesis for one of my family members at that time.
You are the Vice President of Global Marketing and Demand Generation for 3D Systems. How does a company as large as 3D Systems see the current changes in our industry, in terms of applications, users and newer technologies?
Change is constant in this industry and you have to be flexible to be part of it. Providing new technologies is only part of the success formula. To be successful, companies must possess a deep understanding of manufacturing processes and related data management as well as employ experienced material scientists to develop the right materials for additive applications. It is good to see that many companies now understand that market growth requires more than just great technology. It also takes time to listen to customers, understanding the industries and their applications that are likely to be good candidates for additive manufacturing. Beyond what I mentioned before it also requires investment in engineering education, starting from design for additive, to material properties to workflow processes, application development, and outcome inspection & quality control. Over the past four years, the industry has certainly grown up and users have become more aware of additive manufacturing, its possibilities, and its limitations.
CEOs and CTOs seem to be more educated, putting additive departments in place and developing a more realistic view of how their businesses can benefit from additive manufacturing. While rapid prototyping is clearly still the core application of 3D printing, more and more companies are willing and looking to integrate additive into their manufacturing lines. The constantly growing metal 3D printing technology sector is reflecting this.
You used to work at Stratasys before joining 3D Systems, which is also a fairly large and pioneering company in our industry (both companies have been founded before the 90’s). Did you notice any difference in the way either company handles the changes in our industry?
Both companies are great companies to work for.
I do think 3D Systems has a very special culture with incredibly motivated people, inspired by an enabling leadership style and humble management attitudes. Many people I know at 3D Systems have been here for a long time and possess a wealth of experience. They are prepared to go the extra mile. The footprint that 3D Systems has built for itself in manufacturing and various industries such as healthcare, dental, automotive and aerospace with our On Demand Manufacturing solutions, GibbsCAM business, with manufacturing workflow software, and production-grade materials and systems certainly is enabling manufacturers to accelerate the adoption of 3D manufacturing. The 3D Systems’ leadership team understands that the companies that want to stay in this industry need to lead change and this requires passion and patience combined with perseverance and courage.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about your career to share with us?
I was one month into my job at Stratasys at a 3D printing show in the UK in 2015 when a BBC reporter put a camera into my face and asked me “Many people think 3D printing is on its way out – what do you think about it?” I was not expecting the question and spoke for Stratasys in public for the first time. You can imagine my body temperature rising. This was just after the Gartner Hype Cycle came out and people understood that 3D printing is not for everyone. But I guess my answer was not that bad as the interview was published and received well.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
Not any unique challenges that you don’t find in other industries. I have always worked hard to gain a good understanding of the audience and their needs and love to market technical products/technology.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
3D printed models for pre-surgical planning based on patient scans. There are so many cases where 3D printing has helped to save the lives of children and adults or made their lives better through surgical models and guides as well as custom devices that enable them to overcome physical challenges.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Any fast AM technology that can provide repeatability and consistent manufacturing output paired with production grade materials needed for the respective customer application can possibly change an industry if used and integrated in the right way.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As a business person?
You have to help develop the market. It is more than just product innovation, it is process innovation and it needs mindset change and evolutionary thinking.
- As a woman?
It is changing lives and lets you create beautiful unique things.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
It is a good business to be in and it is constantly evolving. We need more support from governments and investment in materials to accelerate adoption. I would prefer to have less technology-focused discussions but to see more application-, process- and material-focused developments.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Get more 3D printing companies investing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities which use 3D printing innovation to directly improve people’s lives.
How do companies such as 3D Systems work on having more diverse teams?
First of all, they work internationally with highly professional HR teams all over the world making sure that they are truly what I call “global.”
In an ever-changing environment, diversity is welcome and helps when managing change. 3D Systems is very customer- and market-centric but we also scale processes with global support roles. We build regional marketing, sales and HR teams working with global product & shared services teams. Continuous dialog, open doors and enabling incentives to support diversity and collaboration.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)?
3Dxpert all-in-one software for metal additive manufacturing
Favorite moment in your day job? When I can learn from a customer
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? A hybrid 3D printer combining subtractive and additive technology, material agnostic.
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Katharina Hayes, Sales Enablement at 3D Systems