Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Funding Hits 3D Printing This Week: $5M VC for Polymaker Materials, $1M Investment in BeeHex 3D Printed Pizza

ST Medical Devices

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polymaker-logoIt isn’t quite “mo’ money mo’ problems” these days for many up-and-coming companies in the 3D printing space as funding rolls in to reward hard work and scalable ideas with “mo’ money mo’ opportunity.” The past week has been particularly kind, to the tune of several million dollars, for China-based Polymaker and US-based BeeHex, which have both closed funding rounds. Polymaker announced the close of a $5 million equity funding round last week, while today BeeHex officially announced a $1 million seed round. Both companies are set to use these investments to move forward with innovations in pretty different areas of 3D printing technology.

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As seen at formnext 2016 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com]

For its part, Polymaker is a popular 3D printing materials company that has created some innovative materials for projects and supports over the last several years. In 2015, the company closed a $3 million funding round led by Lenovo affiliate LegendStar. The recent second round of funding was led by a China-based leading venture capital firm and closed one week ago. Polymaker is set to focus on expansion of manufacturing capacity and next-gen R&D for new products.

“Our customer base ranges from hobbyists to the most advanced industrial customers in the world and the funding allows us to exceed expectations to our global customers’ business needs,” said Polymaker President Dr. Xiaofan Luo.

Polymaker is based in Shanghai, where manufacturing activity takes place; the company also has operations in the Netherlands, where it houses a European sales department, and in New York, its primary hub of distribution; each location is additionally home to a warehouse of their products. Last year, the company introduced PolySmooth and the Polysher, new products intended to create impressively smooth 3D prints without the telltale striation typical of layer-by-layer fabrication. 2016 overall was kind to Polymaker, as the company reported a revenue uptick of 200% over the previous year. For 2017, we can expect to see new product launches, as Dr. Luo teases several major announcements over the next few months. We last saw Polymaker at formnext in November, where they had announced a partnership with Kühling&Kühling and were showcasing several of their materials put to use in creations for various industries, from automotive to medical to musical. Another of Polymaker’s partners, LulzBot also carries their filaments for use with their popular open source desktop 3D printers.

Along with their seed funding, Polymaker announced some good news for their US operations with a newly appointed Vice President of Business Development – Americas, in Jeffrey L. Walters. Walters brings a background in 3D printing industry leadership and Polymaker calls his appointment “very exciting for the global efforts.” The globalization of a company is often a strong sign of sustainable growth, especially when backed by a high-profile investment as is the case here.

“Polymaker is known throughout the entire industry as a leader in quality, service, and performance of their 3D Printing Filaments,” Walters said. “We expect to grow significantly by delivering more than what is expected as a proper business partner, industry consultants, and deliver the highest standards of quality in the manufacturing process. We believe our filament portfolio and its overall performance will challenge the market standards and will be refreshing for its global users.”

With news of investment focusing on materials of an altogether different type, BeeHex is set to step up its game in 3D printing some cuisine.

beehex-logoInitially funded by NASA with a $125,000 grant as Anjan Contractor worked toward a vision of 3D printed food ready to be created in space for astronauts, and ultimately losing its funding following an effort led by Congressman Ted Cruz to reduce “government largesse” including 3D printing technology, now-CEO Contractor and his dedicated group of co-founders created BeeHex in 2016, as CMO Jordan French told us previously. Instead turning to a more commercial view of the technology, BeeHex has continued the vision of growth in 3D printed food.

2017 is proving to be a year of growth already for the young company, which recently moved its R&D operations to Columbus, Ohio — a site I had the good fortune to visit less than a week ago, meeting the team in person to talk about their plans. In addition to CEO Anjan Contractor and French, I talked with CTO Chintan Kanuga and legal and development Ben Feltner then, and saw just how integrated tech is in their everyday operations, including a roving Beam robot that Contractor beamed into for a demo conversation as he left the site. Robotics are also clearly making their mark on food, as the company continues to drive toward the perfect 3D printed pizza.

The $1 million seed round just completed was led by Jim Grote, founder of Grote Company, which is a global food-processing equipment manufacturer — and, conveniently, has its corporate HQ just a few doors down from the new BeeHex R&D facility in Columbus.

“The technology is unmatched in bringing unique opportunities to the food industry,” Grote said of the BeeHex investment. “This revolutionary technology will produce consistent, good tasting, nutritious products. The BeeHex team provides the talent to change the way food is made.”

BeeHex, which had mentioned during my visit that they’d have an announcement coming shortly, is putting their money where their mouths are as they show determination and follow-through. A major issue we see often in the industry is over-promising and under-delivering… but if there’s one thing you want to do for 3D printed pizza, it’s deliver. (It’s not delivery, it’s BeeHex?)

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[Photo: Jordan French]

Today’s funding announcement represents the follow-through of one of the projections the team had mentioned to me last week, so it seems we can also expect their soft launch to successfully come soon at the upcoming International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas later this month. Between the facility move and ongoing development of their 3D printer, the team had been keeping a somewhat lower profile lately, having to skip a few tradeshows; the Pizza Expo will represent a strong return to showing off their popular offerings.

“2017 should prove to be a banner year for BeeHex with a number of ‘locally sourced and organic’ events planned,” Jordan French noted.

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BeeHex draws crowds in public [Photo: BeeHex]

Investment is a big deal for any company, and particularly for young firms in fast-growing fields like 3D printing. The new funding secured by both Polymaker and BeeHex will no doubt spur the innovations both of these companies are known for, and will represent a further call to action for other companies as they seek their own place in the market. Funding represents faith from well-heeled backers in the technologies promised — and demonstrated. We’ll be keeping an eye out for what Polymaker and BeeHex show with the new money behind them. Both companies have good track records already, so it seems that the faith put in them by these backers will lead to some interesting developments to come this year. Discuss in the Polymaker and BeeHex forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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