Dr. Heinemann: Our business model has several layers. Apart from developing the technology and required machines, we are very focused on creating the right materials.
Also, although many customers are really excited about the technology, they don't have the volume to justify the purchase of their own machine. In this case, we handle production for the customer or we have the printing done by a contract manufacturer. If the customer's volume does increase, they can also decide to buy the machine at a later stage.
We also have an effective licensing model that allows us to license out certain areas, which keeps us from losing our focus on the diverse range of applications. So far, we have been successful doing this in a number of areas.
Dr. Christian Leist:* Bioprinting is a very broad term. It includes the production of organic and non-organic materials. And it is precisely these areas that our projects focus on. We concentrate on cellular and molecular 3D bioprinting, like skin models, cell tissue such as heart tissue, microarrays, organoids, and microscalpels.
Dr. Leist: In principle, we can print any material that can be produced as a powder or granulate. This includes, for instance, collagen and protein-based substances of all kinds as well as living cells. But we also use non-organic materials like silicon. This is essential for such things as manufacturing wound dressings. Ceramic can also be used to produce bone parts.
Dr. Leist: I don't see any limits to bioprinting as a whole. But every technology has its limits. The standard methods known around the world – such as systems based on inkjet printing – are limited in terms of quantity, precision, and the delicate treatment of cells. I don't think 3D screen printing has technical limits – its limits are more of an economic nature.
Dr. Leist: This technology is not economical when it comes to prototyping. Of course, it's possible with 3D screen printing, but there is so much effort involved that it's not profitable.
Dr. Heinemann: To me, there are a number of ingredients: First, of course, there is the focus on innovation. Second, it takes an interdisciplinary team. Ultimately, the best idea is useless if I don't have the means to make it a reality. We have a very good setup for both in Switzerland.
Dr. Leist: Comprehensive knowledge of multiple disciplines is key for our business. Axenoll relies on numerous experts: cell biologists, specialists from medical technology and from the printing industry, mechanical engineers, programmers, and many more.
Dr. Heinemann: For Exentis, it was certainly the step from initial testing to industrial application. Most of the time, complex processes like these take far longer than originally planned. It's important to develop and expand on a new technology over the long term and with careful consideration. Or to put it another way: Often, the revolutionary step is easier than the painstaking evolutionary work.
Dr. Leist: Every innovation faces the same challenges. You start with an idea. But you also need partners and strong arguments to convince others of your idea, product, and application. There's a dry period at the beginning.
Dr. Heinemann: Not taking the next step too soon, so that we can give the innovation a chance to mature. With 3D screen printing, we have reached a very mature stage already, but we certainly aren't finished yet.
Dr. Heinemann: We are looking for applications where manufacturers say "I can't get around 3D printing technology if I want to produce a certain product efficiently." We will have found that ideal if our process is the most efficient and economical solution for our customers.
Dr. Leist: It's the search for the ultimate area of application and this is not yet complete.
Dr. Heinemann: It is an important partnership for me. As I said before, alongside the idea and the team, financial resources are essential for growing a company. Credit Suisse has supported us through various phases and growth processes, and has responded flexibly to our needs. I appreciate this a great deal and am absolutely confident that Credit Suisse will provide us with active support in the future as well.
Dr. Heinemann: We see ourselves as a solutions provider. We don't see a problem. We see the solution.
Dr. Leist: Our next goal is to use organic and non-organic materials with our customers to produce quantities that allow them to test systems successfully.
Dr. Leist: Scientific knowledge and an idea are only one part of it. To create a company you need an application. And you certainly cannot do so without business expertise. There has to be a need on the market and a team that supports the development.
Dr. Heinemann: There are lots of startups in Switzerland nowadays. To succeed, you need to combine the right people with the right idea. It's not just the researcher, it's the whole team that drives a company's success. Also make sure to keep your focus and personal goals in mind.