Kristina Camilleri-Grygolec June 5, 2015

Fried Vancraen, CEO of Materialise had this to say: “Meaningful innovation is for me innovation that truly creates added value for the users of that innovation; it is an approach that makes something substantially better, lower cost, maintains the quality, and it really opens up new opportunities that didn’t exist before, and therefore really adds value.” Back in 1989, Fried was working as a research engineer and consultant at the Research Institute of the Belgian Metalworking Industry when he saw his first 3D Printer. So inspired by the technology, he bought one himself and started Materialise in 1990.


According to Fried, “the first plan was just to act as a service bureau with no more than three machines. But even before we were halfway through those first five years, we were already developing software and had decided to start commercializing that software for 3D Printing. That’s because, from the very first days we realized that it was nearly impossible to print the information that was then available for 3D Printing without the software to be able to make the data printable.” Among those there with Fried during Materialise’s definitive first years were Hilde Ingelaere, Johan Pauwels and Bart Van der Schueren, each now a vice president of the company. Together with Fried, they tell the story of meaningful innovations at Materialise:

Through the development of 3D printing over the years, new applications of the technology have been created. As Fried points out,

“3D Printing is present from the products we have in our homes to the products we use at our workplace. Definitely in the context of new product development, but also in the hospital – more and more of the devices are being 3D Printed. In a plane, more and more of the components are starting to be 3D Printed. If we go to a dentist, if we go to an optician, everywhere we go we encounter 3D Printing as a production process for different kinds of products. So this really shows that 3D Printing is not just a niche technology, but a technology that is gradually penetrating all kinds of aspects of our lives.”

While 3D Printing has no doubt developed over the years, and innovations have been plentiful at Materialise and in the entire industry, our Mission Statement has been kept intact and continues to give meaning to all that we do here.

“When we launched the company in 1990, I thought deeply about what we want to fundamentally achieve with this company and what the key elements that we want to bring to society are. That’s when the different aspects of the mission statement really presented themselves” says Fried.

As Materialise has been persistently striving to craft innovations for a better and healthier world, the phrase “25 Years of Meaningful Innovations” really sums up what the company has been doing for the past quarter of a century. If you want to get to know more about meaningful innovations in 3D Printing, and you happen to be in Brussels sometime between April 24 and June 23, then be sure to visit the exhibition Making a Difference / A Difference in Making which celebrates Materialise’s 25th anniversary at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts.