For years I’ve been saying that the ideal combination of 3D printing methods would be the color options of inkjet combined with the low cost, durability, and toughness of FDM parts. This approach is similar to what Rize is doing. It seems that this kind of thinking may also be on the minds of Stratasys. Or perhaps the company that has the inkjet-based UV technology Polyjet for years, wants to double down on that?
Stratasys has just increased its stake in Xaar 3D from 15 to 45% and has an option to acquire the inkjet 3D printing firm. The other 55% is held by Xaar plc.
The inventors of FDM have lately branched out into a number of new technologies. Through its Stratasys Direct subsidiary, it is one of the largest selective laser sintering machine operators worldwide. Recently the company released its own stereolithography 3D printer as well for fine parts and molds. The company has invested in firms before and partnered with the likes of Desktop Metal. Now the firm has taken a total 45% stake in Xaar 3D. It seems that Stratasys is eager to diversify its technology base and achieve more paths to parts.
Xaar is a manufacturing company for inkjet print heads. The firm entered the 3D printing market a few years ago. As we observed the interesting thing about Xaar was that you could approach the company and work with them on developing new technologies for printheads. Its open printheads approach was a unique path to market and made it possible for more firms to use inkjet in 3D printing. Xaar previously also opened its wallet and used its expertise to help Neil Hopkinson achieve his dream of HSS, a high-speed sintering technology which could significantly speed up the powder bed fusion process. In July we reported that Stratasys also invested in HSS together with Xaar.
It seems that Stratasys is looking for more HSS exposure. It doesn’t make sintering systems currently and adding HSS to its arsenal could help its service business and help it round out its portfolio. Simply put, FDM is a great technology to getting fairly quickly parts that are tough and durable and relatively large. If you want 10,000 of something ping pong ball-shaped however powder bed fusion is better. Powder bed technologies can also give you good detail and are good for applications such as surgical guides. By replacing its current arsenal of EOS equipment with HSS, Stratasys may see a huge boost for its Stratasys Direct business while also being able to compete more directly with EOS. This move really puts pressure on EOS and would give Stratasys a very well rounded manufacturing solution array for customers. Stratasys could also have more designs on inkjet, using inkjet to enter into the metal printing market via binder jet for example or using Xaar’s expertise to improve Polyjet printing.
“Xaar 3D Ltd has great potential and we look forward to continuing to work with Stratasys to develop its full potential in this deeper relationship. I am pleased that this transaction will create good value for Xaar shareholders and unlocks the ability for more significant value in due course.” said Doug Edwards, Chief Executive Officer, Xaar plc.
“Xaar 3D has made significant progress over the past year and we see benefits to Stratasys in extending its investment in Xaar 3D’s innovative High Speed Sintering based solutions. We look forward to continue developing the technology together with Xaar and believe the combined expertise of both parties will lead to exploitation of the technology’s promising potential.” said Omer Krieger, EVP Products. “This continues our company’s strategy of complementing our own robust R&D efforts with partnerships and investments in other innovative companies to develop new capabilities and products that create new value to our customers.”
From the press releases, the focus should be on HSS which could potentially significantly speed up 3D printing as we know it. As a side note, this could be a potential blow to Ricoh that traditionally has supplied the Polyjet printheads.
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