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On the right track for growth Interview with Hannes Hämmerle & Wolfgang Humml

Hannes Hämmerle and Wolfgang Humml founded 1zu1 25 years ago and have since developed it into one of the leading 3D printing companies in the German-speaking region. In this interview, the two founders and CEOs discuss the company’s takeover by the Prototal Group on February 1, 2022, what has changed in the first few weeks under the new owners, and what its customers can look forward to in the future.


Wolfgang Humml: We wanted to secure the company’s succession, long-term continuity, and further development. Among our family members, there was plenty of interest in working in management, but not in the role of CEO. I had celebrated my sixtieth birthday the previous year. Hannes is three years younger than me. So it was high time for a change of course.

Hannes Hämmerle: It’s the perfect solution. As part of the Prototal Group, we now benefit from their large network and pool of expertise. This means we are optimally prepared for the challenges of the future and can continue on our growth course. Wolfgang and I will continue to guide the 1zu1 team until our retirement. Even after the first few weeks, we can see that our decision was spot on. 1zu1 is in good hands.

Wolfgang Humml: We have turned down a handful of offers over the last ten years. Towards the end of 2020, Prototal approached us and expressed their interest. The first contact was made through a supplier. From our initial analysis, we realized that Prototal really understood our business. They are active in 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, and vacuum casting, and thus in the same segments as we are. And yet we can complement each other: We create smaller, more precise parts and higher quality surfaces. We also cover the area of smaller parts in rapid tooling. This is where we can enhance the Group’s capabilities and also succeed in our sister companies’ markets.

Hannes Hämmerle: Through our integration into the Prototal Group, we are experiencing rapid internationalization. We are introducing our market and gaining new opportunities through our sister companies in Sweden, Norway, the UK, Denmark, and Italy. In these countries, we are expanding the service spectrum of the Prototal Group with exclusive offerings such as FDR. We have seen a noticeable increase in orders in the first few weeks alone.

Wolfgang Humml: We are now part of the Technical Advisory Board (TAB) of the Prototal Group. At its meetings we exchange ideas about technologies, equipment, infrastructure, and software topics. All the companies get involved, present their solutions to various problems, and discuss their innovations. Examples of “Best Practice Use” are shared to help everyone.  This lets us peek behind otherwise closed doors and help each other out in terms of optimizing our processes.

Hannes Hämmerle: There are no secrets within the network. Which brings me to reporting. Since February 1, we have been supplying detailed data, facts, and figures to Sweden – also retrospectively. While we were able to quickly get up to speed with the basics thanks to the right software programs and partnerships, completing the necessary preparations to be part of an international group of companies with the very highest standards is naturally a challenge. As company owners, it has changed our lives.

Wolfgang Humml: Whereas Hannes and I used to make investment decisions on the fly, these processes now take a bit longer as the management in Sweden naturally wants to be kept in the loop and also has a say in the decision-making process. At the same time, we can save a lot of time and effort if certain processes are handled and made available centrally. For example, when the EU Whistleblowing Directive also comes into force in Austria, we will already have implemented it thanks to Prototal’s preliminary work.

Hannes Hämmerle: Even greater expertise, and soon more materials and technologies. Our strength is small plastic parts from fingernail to palm size. Together with the other companies in the Group, we can now also offer larger parts by the shortest possible route and thus handle entire projects – while maintaining confidentiality. This creates greater opportunities for our customers and ensures a consistent level of support from the experts at 1zu1.

At the same time, as part of an international group of companies, we can guarantee total delivery reliability for our customers. Joint purchasing minimizes the logistical risks in times of crisis. We have already experienced these advantages in the first few weeks, when we were able to quickly and easily help a sister company deal with a material shortage.

Hannes Hämmerle: If we look at our market in the DACH region today, there are parallels with the previous year. The pandemic was followed by the next crisis, the war in Ukraine. After the initial shock, business is recovering well, but growth remains difficult under these circumstances. The situation is rather fraught. As before, the market is behaving very cautiously and decisions are being postponed.


Wolfgang Humml: The highest quality standards, absolute delivery reliability, long-standing personal customer relationships, efficient decision-making processes, and the ability to think outside the box. All of this gives our customers a head start, whether in product development, at market launch, or for innovative special solutions.

Hannes Hämmerle: We are already exploiting the full potential of 3D printing and support our customers from the first prototype to small and medium-sized series of up to 50,000 units. We stand for high precision, fast solutions, and expert advice.


"We are very happy and excited that 1zu1 now is a part of Prototal Industries. Additive manufacturing and rapid production of injection molding tools has been a market constantly growing and innovating, and Prototal has made several acquisitions to consolidate its position and expand its offering. 1zu1 offers a wide range of technologies, very similar to the ones available in Jönköping, that will strengthen the competence within the group. 1zu1 has been at the forefront of this market for twenty-five years, is a great fit for our family of brands, and will benefit all customers. The acquisition should be seen as a clear signal to the market of Prototal’s intention to actively develop the polymer market, both in the region and globally."

Jan Löfving, CEO Prototal Industries

Wolfgang Humml: Training skilled workers is more important than ever. Since it is hard to find employees on the free market, we have to train them ourselves and precisely match their skills to our needs. About half of our apprentices will stay with us for another five years. That’s a long time and very valuable. We want to give young people the opportunity to make a good start to their working lives. With our training model, we can also be a role model within the Group. Perhaps our apprentices will spend time at other Prototal companies in the future.

Hannes Hämmerle: There are new opportunities for our employees. Their work is becoming more international through constant dialog with the other Group companies. Of course, this also requires an increased knowledge of English. As a family-run, internationally active company, we are becoming increasingly attractive as an employer.

Hannes Hämmerle: We are one of the few companies in our industry worldwide that already has the product-development expertise for functional 3D printed elements. In the future, all experts agree that up to a thousand times more parts will be printed. While many product developers have not yet understood the potential of the technology to develop specific 3D printing solutions, at 1zu1 we can already realize small and medium series. The market will grow, but it is still early days.

Wolfgang Humml: The more designers think about the possibilities of 3D printing beyond just milled, turned, cast, and welded parts, the sooner 3D printing will be used for mass production. This is also a generational issue. Young people currently attending an HTL (technical secondary school), technical college, or technical university understand that 3D printing is a key production technology and will apply this knowledge later in their careers. In terms of the technology, we have already come a long way. In the area of plastics, these systems are already as fast as injection molding under certain conditions.

Hannes Hämmerle: Despite short-time working at the beginning of the year, we managed to make a good start to 2021 and ended the fiscal year strongly. We were able to make up some ground in terms of numbers, increase our sales by 25 percent, increase our number of employees, and stabilize the overall business at pre-crisis levels. We are optimistic about the future and plan to secure our location, expand our workforce, and drive our growth strategy by entering the new markets of the Prototal Group. For 2022, we are targeting 10 percent growth in sales.

Wolfgang Humml: The current positive trend is now getting fresh impetus via our integration into Prototal’s network. Through major investments in state-of-the-art machinery and the expansion of our premises, we have laid the perfect foundations for growth over the last two years. Prototal has acquired a superbly positioned business and we have sufficient capacity in all areas to continue to grow.

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