5-Year Anniversary Interview – Martin Back and Stefan Josupeit

From Wild Teenager to Industrially Proven

Forward AM’s journey to maturity through the eyes of one of our longest-serving employees on our fifth anniversary.

Martin: Every day I am inspired by the commitment and innovation of the Forward AM team. As we celebrate five years of progress, I was excited to hear from a team member who has been with our company since its founding. Stefan Josupeit began his career at Forward AM in 2017 and has kindly agreed to share some of his thoughts on 3D printing, our collaborative partnerships, and all that we have accomplished over the past five years.

Stefan Josupeit
Martin Back

Martin: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and your role at Forward AM?

Stefan: My background is technical; I am mechanical engineer by education and spent some time working in industrial research and development on 3D printing projects at Paderborn University (DMRC). There I found a passion for 3DP and moved from northern Germany to southern Germany to support BASF and their journey into 3D printing.

I started at BASF in mid-2017, actually one month before the official founding of B3DPS, and at that time I was responsible for application development in powder bed fusion. In the beginning, there were maybe 20 people working on the 3D printing team. Today we have more than 200 team members and it has been an amazing journey as we’ve all worked together to help shape and expand the business. And as we continue to grow, each year gets more exciting!

Then in 2020, I took on a new role as Head of Business Line Powder Bed Fusion making me responsible for the overall powder business and leading an incredibly passionate team to push cutting-edge innovations in materials and applications.

Martin: As your role has grown and expanded, what do you enjoy the most about working at Forward AM?

Stefan: One would be the passion of the team and the ability to co-create new applications. By utilizing the design freedom and part optimization supported through 3D printing technologies, we have the speed to adapt to new requirements and fully realize new manufacturing possibilities in this highly dynamic market.

We also have a setup that allows for a quick reaction and response. Unlike people who might consider BASF as “a big ship hard to move,” we are proving an agile operation that keeps pace with the market and our customers. We continue to think outside the box, beyond traditional manufacturing restrictions, when considering what is needed for any new project. We are not bound to a specific technology or material so we can pick the best solution any application.

Martin: While you just provided some great examples of the freedom and possibilities that are available through 3D printing, can you tell me if there is there a part of your job that you feel is the most fulfilling?

Stefan: I would say the empowerment to find solutions without the burden of being limited by standard manufacturing processes. The idea that every day is unique and comes with new challenges, problem-solving, and solutions. We cover applications for industries ranging from medical to consumer to toys. This is a job and career that will never become boring! There are so many opportunities to grow and expand, and it’s great to see 3DP being utilized for more and more applications. We are a big part of bringing these innovative technologies closer to everyone through mass customization and personalized goods. And working with the global teams and various disciplines to make this happen is very exciting!

Martin: Since 2017, we have developed many impactful 3D printing applications. But what is the most fun project you have worked on in the past five years?

Stefan: Actually, the most fun project I worked on was not that long ago. Our customer Posedla offers customized and personalized bike saddles which are 3D printed using TPU. As every person is built and shaped differently, Posedla is utilizing what they are calling the “smiling butt kit” – a special foam form that you sit on – which then makes an impression used to create a 3D scan. Through this process, individuals can finally get a saddle that is 100% customized resulting in a perfect fit to their build and body-shape. This kind of project is only a glimpse into the directions that 3DP can go in the future and a clear example of how mass customization increases personalized comfort for everyone.

Read more about this use case at: https://posedla.com/blogs/guides/how-to-use-the-smiling-butt-kit

Martin: To be successful with a project like that takes collaboration. Considering that, what is the best thing about your colleagues at Forward AM?

Stefan: We have a great team spirit across all functions and regions of the company, and each day I have the pleasure to work with highly passionate and creative colleagues. We maintain a consistent focus on helping each other, creating an open feedback culture. I can collaborate with anybody within the company, on any team and can rely on their dedication to whatever project were working on. This makes Forward AM a fun and fulfilling place to work. But I also want to highlight the young and dynamic mindset we strive for. I’m not speaking by age, but by feeling and drive. We are not old fashioned in our thinking but are always open to new challenges and possibilities as we all find ways of learning and growing every day.

It all comes back to what you and our whole team has talked about and worked towards, Martin. True collaboration going beyond our own organization. That in deciding to take on a new or challenging project, we strive to collaborate in the same open and agile way with all partners involved throughout the entire design and manufacturing process. And in doing so, we can provide results that meet or exceed the customers expectations in a much shorter time frame.

Martin: One last question. As you have experienced and played a role in much of what the company has done over the past five years, what do you see as the biggest accomplishments we’ve achieved since you started at Forward AM?

Stefan: So, to put it rather simply, in 2017 we were kind of acting like a wild teenager. We were very ambitious but needed to try out a lot of things to find our place. And now in 2022, we have matured, having grown into a proven business with established applications and respected partnerships. If we failed at first on a project, we learned, created a better material or process and offered solutions. We went from minimally viable to industrially proven in many different markets.

Having moved beyond experimenting, we are now tackling real world problems and identifying new technologies and solutions. Markets and requirements have become clearer so we can better tailor our portfolio, while still accepting new challenges and the endless possibilities of which applications may follow.

And like so many companies, we are focusing on how to work more sustainably as a major driver for new 3DP innovations – meaning energy reduction, lightweight design, decreasing plastic waste and truly making an economic and ecological impact on our planet.

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