Founded in 2009, Paris-based Sculpteo has grown substantially, expanding westward with the late 2015 opening of its US location. The San Leandro, California base for Sculpteo USA offers manufacturing and support to the company’s many customers across North America, and has been expanding itself as the company continues to thrive in its service offerings. When I found myself in the Bay Area recently, it was a pleasure to accept the invitation to stop by to have a look inside Sculpteo USA.
The facility is housed in an expansive industrial space devoted to tech startups. Located above a busy retail center, the space is a community unto itself, just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. I was met by Sculpteo USA General Manager Nora Touré, who introduced me to some of the team on-site, including European Sales Director Nicolas Mathian and Production Manager, US Erik Mellberg, before taking me on a tour of the manufacturing offerings available through Sculpteo USA.
The site, while smaller than its big sister in France, offers flexibility for Sculpteo in offering faster service to customers on this continent — an important consideration as the 3D printing industry continues to grow and North America remains one of the largest players and customers. We focused primarily on 3D printing hardware from EOS and Carbon, as well as looking to the systematic processing and shipping to keep orders tightly on track.
Mellberg took me through a detailed look into factory operations, explaining that operations are split between the facilities in San Leandro and Paris, as the company overall works to match capabilities to benefit customers local to each location.
“Our primary printing platform is SLS; it’s good for high volume, and is a technology most companies can’t get access to without buying a machine,” Mellberg told me as we looked to the pair of EOS P 396 machines.
“This is our bread and butter. We have a high production run of SLS nylon plastic, basically as fast as we can. We run the EOS machines pretty much every single day.”
Mellberg, who started working with Sculpteo in July 2017 as a technician, was recently promoted to the role of Production Manager, and demonstrates comfort with the range of operations. He introduced me to the company’s newest technician, Elton Cheung, who focuses largely on the Carbon 3D printer, as that unit “requires a solo touch” due to its faster throughput.
“Elton analyzes and finishes parts; this is pretty much a one-person printer, it’s so fast so we have to be cycling all the time, whereas the larger ones really only print once per day,” he said of operations.
“We work very closely with Carbon. We were one of the first to get one of their printers, we’ve been partnered with them for quite a while. They recently announced us as a partner in their certification process.”
In addition to a close relationship with Carbon, Sculpteo USA appreciates the proximity to various other businesses employing — or looking to employ — 3D printing, forming helpful relationships.
“We work a lot with local companies. Being in the Bay Area, a lot of companies are looking for fast 3D printing and come to us for fast production,” Mellberg noted.
While right now, the US-based team is relatively small, growth and change are in the air. High volumes are keeping Mellberg busy in manufacturing — along with his colleagues in France, where he noted operations as being “also very busy, and bigger” — and Sculpteo USA is looking to expand with a few new hires this year. Through tools such as FabPilot software, developed initially for internal use, the teams in San Leandro and Paris keep up with regular, real-time communication on additive manufacturing operations.
In addition to the manufacturing setup, Touré showed me Sculpteo USA’s previous office center of operations, just across the hall, where myriad show pieces are still housed to showcase the capabilities of the technologies the team works with.
The busy team were hard at work throughout my visit, and I appreciated the look inside operations. My visit was also fortuitously timed on a more personal note, as it aligned with the release date of the first Diversity for Additive Manufacturing report, published via Women in 3D Printing, that Touré and I worked on for Q1 2018, a project outside the scope of her work with Sculpteo and outside the scope of my work with this site.
There’s much more to come from Sculpteo in the near future, as the company continues to keep its finger on the pulse of 3D printing (as well as, at opportune times, on its funny bone). You can keep up with the team in person this week at AMUG in St. Louis, as well as in two weeks at RAPID + TCT in Fort Worth.
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[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]