Steve Chillscyzn of Evolve Additive Solutions

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Steve Chillscyzn, the co-founder, president, and CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Evolve Additive Solutions – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

In 2009, Evolve Additive Solutions started as a research project inside of Stratasys, led by Steve Chillscyzn. Steve recognized that there was a gap in the additive industry and that the ability for full-scale production had fallen short of its promise. Much research was conducted and what came of it was that manufactures needed five items in order to even consider additive for production. Those included the same engineering-grade thermoplastic MATERIALS that they were currently using in injection molding, the SCALABILITY to integrate into their existing factory floor, the same or better QUALITY parts of injection molding, the SPEED needed to keep up with supply chain demands, and a COST that is the same or better than traditional manufacturing. With that research, it was concluded that there was no technology or solution that met all five, so Evolve launched as a fully separate company in 2017, continuing to invent and develop the technology for a commercial solution. The technology is known as STEP (selective thermoplastic electrophotographic process).

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

Additive technology has been a breakthrough, but when you start to talk about manufacturing, there are many challenges for companies to consider before they make a switch to a new process. Manufacturers have countlessly been promised that the ability to fully scale volume production was coming, or is now a reality – however, that promise has not yet been fulfilled. Evolve has been challenged to prove otherwise. As the FIRST scalable volume production technology, Evolve achieves mass customization, just-in-time production, and unmatched quality without compromise.

Internal mindset and culture can also play a role in adoption. For example, a company may have a “champion” for a particular AM product/part, but it typically takes an entire team to finalize a buying decision. Many play a role, including the VP of Manufacturing, the CFO, etc. Getting all the players on board presents its own set of challenges.

What does the future hold for Evolve Additive Solutions?

Evolve is on-track for the commercialization of its first machine, the SVP (Scalable Volume Production), in Q4 2020. Evolve continues to work with vendors on new materials and has recently proven out the ability to print multi-materials (voxel specific) in the same layer, over-molding, and color. Evolve is marketing itself in a variety of industries including automobile, med device, packaging and consumer goods companies, and has plans to grow these markets.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in the Twin Cities?

The Twin Cities has a lot to offer as it has many exceptional technical universities and high-tech companies. Also, our state builds successful corporations and has a total of 18 Fortune 500 companies. The startup culture is growing, evidenced by the 40% increase in startup investments between 2016-2017. There is a very large med-tech community in the Twin Cities, and they have a need for entrepreneurial innovative thinkers. The Twin Cities also hosts some of the largest and most innovative 3D printer companies in the world including Evolve, Stratasys, and Protolabs. Our market needs to do a better job supporting these startups by providing an environment that gives them access to top talent and technology. Marketing the Twin Cities as a great place to start up a business (similar to NY, CA, Boston) will help bring in venture funds necessary to get things going.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Building a product or a company can be a series of trials and errors, but having a complete end to end vision is critical for staying on track. Other tips and advice include:

  • Be sure you are solving a problem
  • Believe in your product and have passion
  • Find a niche market that is in need of your product and address their need
  • Never let anyone tell you that your idea is not worth pursuing. The best response when someone is doubtful is “watch me”
  • Evaluate your competition
  • Customers will pay for a solution that makes their business grow
  • Secure your IP with a comprehensive patent strategy
  • Target the right investors and bring in help to secure funding
  • You will hear “no” many times – don’t let that discourage you

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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