BASF Doubles Down on 3D Printing, Buys Sculpteo

Share this Article

BASF has really shaken up the 3D printing industry yet again by buying Sculpteo today. The German chemical giant has previously bought Dutch filament leader Innofill3D, launched a new brand and materials, invested together with Materialise in Essentium, invested in Prismlab, invested in Materialise and bough Advance3D and Setup Solutions. Whereas a few years ago it was 3D Systems that was keeping the M&A lawyers in suits now it seems that dueling polymer firms BASF and DSM are trying to out invest each other in the space. It is these two companies that are making the biggest splashes of late.

Rear-view mirror housing made from BASF Ultrasint PA6 X043 with Farsoon HT403P.

Dr. Dietmar Bender, Managing Director BASF 3D Printing Solutions says,

“Through the acquisition of Sculpteo, we can provide customers and partners with even faster access to our innovative 3D printing solutions. In addition, our customers will benefit from an extended range of services.” “Together with Sculpteo, we are pursuing our goal of establishing additive manufacturing as a proven technology for industrial mass production”

“We are excited to join the BASF team and thus benefit from BASF’s outstanding R&D to provide our customers with innovative solutions”, says Clément Moreau, Sculpteo CEO

BASF Photo-Resin X004M

Terms were not disclosed but the impact of this move will be significant.

  1. BASF is now in the parts business not just in the chemicals business. Does this mean that they will make more parts outside of 3D printing as well? We’ve seen moves as well by Victrex, makes of PEEK, to move from relatively low-value chemistry and polymers towards parts manufacturing. If this trend continues it has a lot of broad implications for many BASF suppliers and customers.
  2. Materialise now has BASF as a partner and investor as well as through Sculpteo as a competitor with 3D printing as a service, this is awkward to say the least and may strain the partnership. If BASF communicated this acquisition well then this should not be an issue.
  3. Will this mean that DSM could buy Shapeways to put itself in the driving seat once again? Or would Shapeways be too expensive?
  4. Perhaps this will unlock a roll-up strategy for some market player by making it valuable for them to buy a series of local service bureaus.
  5. What will Quickparts and Stratasys direct (and other services) do when faced with a company that wants to sell them materials while competing with them? Will services not buy BASF materials any longer? After all, more money for BASF may mean more investment in the highest margin part of their business and this is now Sculpteo.
  6. What will other materials firms such as SABIC and Solvay do? Will they be forced to partner with services as well or take another route and be super platform agnostic?
  7. Will this mean that more OEMs such as HP will invest in platforms as well?
  8. With GKN buying Forecast will we now see a global battle between truly international services?
  9. For Evonik, this will mean loss of the Sculpteo volume but do they stand to lose more if others take over platforms as well?
  10. For Xometry and others, this means that reinvestment prospects have dimmed slightly because investors must be slightly weary to play in the same backyard as manufacturing giants such as GKN and Jabil as well as a chemicals to polymers to parts company such as BASF.
  11. Addup wasn’t interested in buying a French 3D printing company, who knew?
  12. Does this mean that our industry is just a stress ball for large polymer companies? Are the big polymer firms the only players that count now in 3D printing for polymers?

Is this a good deal?

For Sculpteo this exit seems like it was the maximum achievable. Clement and his team have fought hard for years to make Sculpteo more international and to compete with Shapeways, Materialise and others. Assumptions by investors are all based on the assumption that winner takes all. The truth is likely more nuanced, but Clement and his team get a well-earned exit plus lots of skill and polymer expertise to build their business within BASF. We won’t know the purchase price but it seems a solid move rather than trying to wait it out another year and risk getting crushed by new entrants.

For BASF this is an astute move. Higher margin, closer to the customer businesses could give them an edge. I’ve always considered BASF quietly weak in 3D printing because they don’t really understand customers or applications and always insulate themselves from them. By getting in closer they could develop more consumer-friendly and application-ready materials directly. Of all the polymer companies I’ve considered BASF to be brave with their money but the firm has a decided lack of understanding in customer needs and applications when compared to DSM, Sabic, Lehmann Voss, Mitsubishi, and others. Information now flows more directly to and through BASF which may help them. If we look at the bigger picture in polymers then moving from chemicals towards parts puts them at a much better point in the chain and improves their prospects long term.

Share this Article


Recent News

Rocket 3D Printing Gets IPO Boost via Rocket Lab SPAC Merger

New 3D Printing Industry Leaders Join AMGTA



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup: February 21, 2021

This coming week is chock full of webinars, with three a day for three days running. So without further ado, let’s dive right in! TriMech on Sweeps and Threads in...

Sponsored

The Future of Bound Metal 3D Printing for ExOne

Bound metal 3D printing is becoming one of the most productive metal additive manufacturing (AM) technologies for creating high-performance parts on-site. One of the few firms pioneering this emerging technology...

Featured

AMS 2021: The Gaps in Automating 3D Printing for Production

As exciting as all of the verticals discussed at the online Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit were, automation is a personal favorite as it addresses the gaps between 3D printing and...

Featured

ExOne (XONE) Releases Office-Friendly Bound Metal 3D Printer

The competition in Binder Jet is heating up. Just a week ago, Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) announced the two-step bound metal Studio 2 System. By eliminating one step of the...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.