Sara Bonomi is a marketer specialized in hardware with a focus on 3D printing. She was recognized as “one of the 25 most influential women in 3D printing worldwide” by 3D Printing Media Network. She builds marketing and communications strategies for B2B technology products. Sara worked both in startups and large multinationals, with a focus on direct and channel marketing. She has spoken about hardware, female empowerment and 3D printing at events and conferences such as re:publica Berlin, Inside 3D Printing Düsseldorf, MakerFaire Berlin, FASHIONTECH Berlin, Medtech Europe, SMAU Berlin, Munich Hardware meetup. She is currently working as the EMEA Channel Marketing Lead at Formlabs.
Sara, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I am originally from Italy but have lived for 10 years, in Australia, France, Spain, USA and now Germany. I did my Bachelor in Economics and Management, worked one year at DELL and then did my Masters of Science in Marketing. After that, I was trying to get a job in San Francisco, which was very tricky because I didn’t have a visa. I was going to a networking event every evening to find a cool company who was willing to do the visa process to hire me. It was then when I met Espen Silversten, one of the co-founders of Type A Machines. They were looking to hire their first marketing person, so it was a great lucky coincidence. I think the fact that both Espen and Andrew, the other founder, were not American, made them understand my case better. It was 2012 and I’ve been working in 3D printing ever since.
Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?
When I walked for the first time into the Type A Machines office, which was located at TechShop in San Francisco, I remember getting immediately captivated by the movements of the FDM printers. The extruders were whirring. The colorful PLA spools were spinning. They had racks and racks of printers which were running non-stop, printing any sort of cool objects and colors. It was incredible! I thought: this is how the future looks like!
You have experience in both Europe and the USA, pushing marketing strategies for 3D printer manufacturers. Are there key differentiators between those territories in terms of marketing?
Absolutely. From what I’ve experienced, the US market is usually quicker and more eager to adopt innovations. There are a lot of enthusiastic makers and hobbyists who purchased a 3D printer directly from the manufacturer. It’s usually easier to launch direct marketing and communications strategies in the US, as one approach fits the whole market.
Europe is a more complex territory, as it is very segmented by language, culture, and currency. European consumers and companies usually prefer to buy from local resellers who can guarantee training, warranty and technical maintenance. Manufacturers need to localize their websites, work on channel marketing activities with their resellers, and get into the local press.
Formlabs has been qualified as the first unicorn in our industry. What would you say is Formlabs’ strength as a company?
Formlabs’ team is what makes it great. An incredibly dedicated, talented team, who can focus on new products in an agile way. It’s really impressive to look back at the amount of new materials, software updates, and new innovative hardware the company has launched in the last couple of years.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
I am proud of being the second employee in the EU office of Formlabs and helping to shape the team. It has been an incredible adventure, considering that we’re now 120 employees in the EU office.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
There is a lot of fun(ny) stories. I think the most difficult moments turned out to be the best memories. For example, when I had to SSH into one of the early Form 2 prototypes to get it to print, minutes before getting on air at the Gadget’s Show. Or when I traveled on my own to Munich and Frankfurt with two huge suitcases (32kg each!) to present the Form 2 under embargo to the German press.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
Definitely, the industry is still more male-dominated, both in 3D Printing companies’ management positions and in the audience I meet at trade shows and events. In some engineering events, it has happened more than once to me and my female colleagues that the visitors think we’re just “booth babes”. So it’s great fun to see the expression on their faces when we start talking about all the technical details of the technology, and we often know more than they do!
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
Formlabs has just launched two new hardware products that will help usher in a new era for industrial 3D printing: the Form 3, the latest in our line of professional printers for the desktop, and the Form 3L, the first affordable large format resin 3D printer. Both are powered by the advanced Low Force Stereolithography (LFS)™ technology, which Formlabs has designed to drastically reduce the forces of the print process.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
The most impactful use of 3DP for me happens in the medical field. Especially when it comes to prosthetics and orthosis, which are finally available to people who could not afford it before. An example is the inspiring story of Nik, a 7-year old child who couldn’t stand or walk due to cerebral palsy. His father Matej set out with a simple goal: to enable Nik to walk. Thanks to a Form 2, Matej created a custom-made, 3D printed orthosis that provides support and correction exactly where Nik needs them, which finally helped him take his first steps independently.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
I’m extremely excited about what Formlabs recently announced and has been working on for some time: Low Force Stereolithography (LFS)™, a technology that uses a flexible tank and linear illumination to deliver incredible surface quality and print accuracy. Lower print forces allow for light-touch support structures that tear away with ease. Additionally, this process opens up a wide range of possibilities for future development of advanced, production-ready materials. If you want to see how it works in details, check out this video.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
Access to 3D printing means that it’s possible to open up new business opportunities and markets. And it’s exciting to see female founders using this technology to create new products or incredible structures and designs, for example, the founders behind Dame Products, or Jessica Rosenkrantz, co-founder of Nervous Systems, both Formlabs users.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
It starts with education, by getting more women into technical fields such as product design and manufacturing. I know that more schools here in Germany are starting to teach 3D design alongside geometry, and that’s a first great step to make sure that everyone, both boys and girls, can get started early on. And then telling stories of women who are in the industry, as the Women in 3D Printing Network is doing!
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? Formlabs Form 3L 🙂
Favorite moment in your day job? Lunchtime at Formlabs, when new hires introduce themselves while we enjoy delicious catered food!
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? More functional materials to expand the range of 3D printing applications.
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview? Jennifer Milne, Product at Formlabs