In July 2020, I finished a 4-month assignment for leading micro-SLA technology vendor Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF). For those not familiar with the BMF projection micro-stereolithography or PµSL process, it’s a photocurable resin 3D printing process with the capability of making parts at extremely high resolution. The BMF 130 machine builds components in layers as thin as 5µm, with an X/Y resolution as small as 2µm.
These capabilities should positions the technology squarely within the micro-manufacturing domain, as both a unique and credible prototyping solution and a production alternative to established micro-manufacturing methods. But, which methods can it displace and for what applications and in what materials? Moreover, is it uniquely positioned in the market and if so, how much better is it than other contenders? For the answers to these questions, BMF turned to Reeves Insight.
Working with the senior management team at BMF, we developed a four-stage project brief based on a detailed desk-based analysis.
I started by identifying over thirty AM/3DP processes that purported to produce micro-scale components. I then looked at the geometric capabilities of each process, along with the material properties of the parts produced. I also reviewed the productivity of each process, along with the technology platform cost. This analysis provided the intelligence and insight BMF needed to best position their machines within the market. But which market?
To answer this, I then looked outside the AM/3DP sector into the wider Micro-manufacturing domain, sourcing and analysing detailed market intelligence on micro-injection moulding and micro polymer machining. By analysis the vertical market applications, supply chain dynamics, industry players and geographic distribution of the supply chain, I was able to help BMF understand which geographic markets and industry verticals present the most significant opportunities for their technology.
I then looked in detail at almost twenty of the most common plastics being used in traditional micro-manufacturing, to understand why different polymers are selected and the properties needed for various applications. I then identified and compared the properties of over 230 photocurable materials, that could, in theory, be used in the BMF process. This insight now allows BMF to map customer applications and requirements against available photocurable resins. It also lets them see where the market opportunity is for micro-scale applications such as form, fit and functional prototyping and end-use part production, based on material capability.
Finally, to widen the market opportunity, I looked outside of commercial manufacturing to identify other applications for the BMF technology within the research domain. I started by analysing the current BMF customer install base. From this, I was then able to identify over 200 other senior research academics and almost 100 global research centres that could benefit from access to the PµSL process.
So what did BMF think of my work?
Boston Micro Fabrication CEO John Kawola – “Working with Phil was a not only a pleasure, it was very high value. He has a unique ability to dig deep on the technology while keeping product/market fit considerations in mind at all time. His work will really help us stay focused on markets where we can win and will provide a roadmap in defining solutions for new applications.”
If you want to know more about the insight gained from this project or more general information on the BMF technology offer, there is a one-hour on-demand webinar now available to view at the Techbreif website, where myself and John Kawola discuss in details the capabilities of PµSL.