EOS Buys 3D Printing Startup Vulcan Labs: Analysis and Comment

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German firm EOS has acquired Vulcan labs and will integrate the startup into its Pflugerville operations to work on the Integra P 400. This brings aboard a very experienced team of people who have deep experience in manufacturing using 3D printing. The Integra P 400 is a machine developed in the US is a very different animal than all other EOS hardware. The Integra is modular, easy to expand, easy to service and customizable. This manufacturing machine is meant to be expandable and extensible so you can optimize it to make insoles out of TPU for example. The entire thing was engineered in the states on a completely different technology stack. Whereas other EOS machines are typically more standardized this is more of an open affair for people who wish to have new materials or make new manufacturing cases.

The Vulcan Labs team, there are countries with less 3D Printing experience.

It is very interesting that EOS wishes to develop a completely new technology stack in the states and more interesting still that they will redouble their efforts with this Vulcan acquisition. Poignant detail is that Vulcan itself was a spin-off of Stratasys. Vulcan was meant to spin out Stratasys’ Selective Laser Sintering (Powder Bed Fusion) activities into a dedicated unit focused on manufacturing. This unit is now in the hands of rival EOS. Stratasys is one of the largest users of Powder Bed Fusion technology for its Stratasys Direct Manufacturing unit. This move sets back competition in Powder Bed Fusion since it seemed for a while that another player may emerge in the powder bed fusion market. If in addition to EOS and 3D Systems a new player would have offered a competing technology then this would have given people interested in making with PBF more choice.

At the same time EOS shoring itself up like this helps stave off the competition from the emerging HSS technology. Inkjet head company Xaar has a partnership with Stratasys to commercialize HSS. It seems that Stratasys has sold Vulcan in order to double down on Neil Hopkinson’s HSS which is potentially a faster (but perhaps not as accurate) powder bed technology. Meanwhile, it seems that EOS will use the more open Integra P400 system to stave off competition in sintering from a much more active 3D Systems and retard the adoption of HSS as well as HP Inkjet. Perhaps as well the Integra unit will be spun out? Or is it that the unit will itself be able to work with the US defense industry? EOS itself has never produced any weapons due to Dr. Langer’s foresight in realizing the potentially harmful impact of 3D printing as a technology. The more open and suited for manufacturing P400 system can be seen as an attempt to open up manufacturing while EOS’s million laser diode technology is being developed. With such an experienced group on board the Integra unit is sure to develop more quickly. It also must be stated that this move continues the EOS group hug to former rival DTM who decades ago made great high-quality sintering systems. Maybe it should sweep into Evonik to bring back Carl Deckard one of the main inventors of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS, PBF) to make the reunion complete? After all, that team is still in Austin as well.

This also continues EOS’ entry into the US market and its renewed investments there. EOS is moving the team to Pflugerville where it has its operations and where companies such as Dye Mansion (an EOS investment) and Essentium will be based. This is quite the coup once again for the Austin Texas suburb of Pflugerville which is quickly becoming a locus for 3D printing firms.

Glynn Fletcher, president of EOS North America has said that,

“Additive manufacturing is advanced manufacturing and it is not as easy as simply pushing a print button. With that sophistication, our job becomes helping ensure our customers are productive and successful, and that sometimes requires non-standard solutions, customized to very specific applications. With this acquisition of top AM industry talent, we have now formed an entirely dedicated engineering services group solely focused on these types of requirements.”

Fletcher also stated that,

“With this acquisition, we have frankly struck the AM talent jackpot. It is rare, indeed, to find such a pool of top technical talent that can immediately bring value to our customers at such a high-level. This acquisition illustrates our commitment to providing the best support for our customers, while continuously challenging the market through internal and external disruption.”

One of those very talented people is David Leigh, who I once had the pleasure of interviewing for an article for the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Journal. He was one of the first service bureau people to really grasp the potential of manufacturing with 3D printing. With Digital Harvest he pioneered manufacturing for drones and industrial goods, often relying heavily on Selective Laser Sintering (Powder bed fusion, SLS, LS). He has now been made Chief Operating Officer of EOS North America. He said that,

“Industrial 3D printing is still relatively new, but it has moved from the theoretical to the practical. As organizations wrestle to integrate AM into their production chain, industry-leading experts like EOS are what will make the difference between struggle or success. That success requires a stable of experts and a robust ecosystem of partners. Vulcan Labs augments existing EOS know-how and sets us apart bringing unique, high-value solutions to our customers.”

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