Interview: Stefan Leonhardt, Managing Partner of Kumovis

Nov 06, 2018

Stefan Leonhardt studied medical engineering at the Technical University of Munich. His research during his studies was focused on the influence of materials and manufacturing processes on the biocompatibility of polymer parts. In 2015 he started his Ph.D. programme at the Institute of medical and polymer engineering at the Technical University of Munich, about the development of a biocompatible photopolymer for the production of individualized bioreactors used in tissue engineering processes. Since October 2017 he is a managing partner of the Kumovis GmbH, a startup that develops innovative 3D-printing systems for the production of individualized implants out of PEEK. Stefan will also be a speaker for our upcoming Munich event. 

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Stefan:  My first contact with 3d printing was at the Institute of medical and polymer engineering at the technical university of Munich. That time, I was applying for an Ph.D. project at the institute and was excited about the huge potential that 3d printing could bring into healthcare. Especially the new designs for medical products that could be realized.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?

Stefan:  I was fascinated about the possibility to create “things” that you had in your mind without production-related restrictions. There were so many fields that could be revolutionized through additive manufacturing, especially the production of medical products. As a student, my research was always focused on the compatibility of plastics with biological systems, so I wanted to translate this knowledge into 3d-printing.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.

Stefan:  To be honest there was no one special who inspired me. Rather, it was the many use-cases I saw on the internet, conferences or speeches that impressed me what is possible with 3d printing. In recent days I am mostly inspired by people that focus on the basics that we need to bring 3d printing to a patient or in series production.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Stefan:  I am always motivated by real applications that can be used on a patient or in a product. To see the printed part under real conditions is what motivates me to go on with all the work.

Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?

Stefan:  It was always difficult to find people that had real applications and not only did research. It was a little bit frustrating to see working a material or a process in the lab but could not bring it to a patient. One solution was to corporate a lot with material suppliers that already know a lot of customers that use specific plastics for medical applications.

Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Stefan:  The biggest challenge is to translate printed products from the lab to the patient. There are so many publications, paper or potential use-cases that stay in the lab. One major challenge is to achieve stable processes with high accuracy and reproducibility. Furthermore, we, have to overcome all the challenges that regulatory affairs imply.

The solution in my point of view lies in the focus on stable processes. That means we have to build robust 3d-printing machines that focus on the basics:

  • Good mechanics
  • High accuracy
  • High reproducibility
  • Clean processes

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?

Stefan:  See what the world looks like in 100, 500 and 1000 years. Does that count as one or three wishes? ?

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?

Stefan:  Be proactive with your ideas, do important things first and always have the end in mind. Ignore people who say “you can´t do this” or “that is not possible”.

Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?

Stefan:  Focus on the basics and take one step after the other before building dreamworlds.

Jenny: What were/was the best/worst investment you made in 3D printing?

Stefan:  At the beginning, we had an, in our mind, interesting idea for a particle free guide system that we wanted to integrate into our first printer for high-performance materials. In hindsight, it never could have worked but we spend several months and a lot of money to build a prototype just to see that it doesn´t work. ?

Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?

Stefan:  Starting an own business is always risky. But we have a great team, a great product and we know what we can achieve in 3d printing for healthcare applications, so I will never regret this decision.

Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?

Stefan:  I enjoy spending time with friends and do sports. But I also like days where I just can relax and read a good book or watch a nice movie.

Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?

Stefan:  “It doesn´t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people, so they can tell us what to do” from Steve Jobs.

It reminds me that you always can learn a lot from other people and also from other companies as long as you work together.

Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)

Stefan:  3DHEALS is really a great platform. It builds on the ecosystem on healthcare 3d printing and brings together great people and great ideas. For me and our company, it is great to be part of 3DHEALS.

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