AMS Spring 2023

Materialise and Sigma Labs to Combine Technologies for QA and 3D Printer Development

6K SmarTech

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Known in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry for its quality assurance software and hardware products, Sigma Labs has made steady progress in proliferating its QA technology across AM. The latest development in this trend comes in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Sigma Labs and Materialise, an AM software developer and 3D printing services provider.

The agreement will see the Materialise MCP Controller integrated with Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D technology, as well as a joint sales agreement and beta customer commercialization of the combined PrintRite3D and Materialise Control Platform (MCP) product. To understand what this integration might look like, it’s necessary to understand what MCP is.

The MCP eocsystem. Image courtesy of Materialise.

MCP is a software-driven hardware solution meant to provide greater, more user-friendly control over AM systems. The product is embedded within a 3D printer and acts as an interface between the machine and the user so that they can perform actions like optimize print parameters, calibrate optics, write machine scripts, manually control hardware components, and detect errors. So far, the tool can be used for laser-based machines (i.e., stereolithography, laser sintering and laser melting).

The inclusion of PrintRite3D within MCP would mean that machine developers would be able to better understand how the equipment operates from a QA perspective, seeing defects and anomalies within a build from within MCP. The ability to further control hardware within MCP based off of this QA data would mean the possibility of developing new or retrofitting existing machines to include closed-loop quality control.

When Sigma Labs began making news as far back as 2012 or 2013, there was some reason to be skeptical of the company, derived from the fact that it was trading on the over the counter (OTC) markets. Penny stocks can be extremely questionable because the OTC markets are less heavily regulated than the NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange. In turn, penny stocks are often used as vehicles for financial impropriety, specifically pump and dump schemes in which very low-cost stocks are increased in value through false press releases and other means and then sold at a profit by insiders.

We’ve actually seen at least one pump-and-dump scheme occur in the 3D printing industry. An Australian inventor, Jason Simpson, was defrauded by his investors who were very likely involved in such practices while also stealing Simpson’s assets. From our In-Q-Tel series, we also learned of one time when the CIA’s venture firm may have (wittingly or unwittingly) been caught up in one.

Because Sigma Labs began trading on the OTC markets at such a low price long before it had begun commercializing a product. Its OTC trading actually dates back to 2000, when the company was called Framewaves, Inc., a firm purportedly aiming to make custom frames. Framewaves was actually established through the acquisition of a different company called Messidor Limited that was involved in defrauding investors. The operations of Framewaves were somewhat suspect, as well, given the fact that its directors went on to launch similarly inactive penny stock companies.

However, when B6 Sigma, a company spun out of research at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Technology Management Company, Inc., performed a reverse acquisition of Framewaves in 2010, all of the former directors stepped down and were replaced by B6 Sigma people. Because it was trading as an OTC stock at such an early stage in the commercial, a tech stock blog called nanalyze raised some red flags and some questions about when it planned to deliver on its market promises. As we stand now it looks like Sigma Labs may have just picked an unfortunate husk of a company to use as a listed vehicle.

Sigma Labs continued to secure important partnerships and Department of Defense grants. This included working with Honeywell to test the use of PrintRite3D for metal 3D printing and 3DSIM (later acquired by ANSYS) to combine Sigma Labs’ quality assurance technology with metal 3D printing simulation software.

The AM QA company has since moved from the OTC market to the less questionable Nasdaq Capital Market. This combined with what appears to be steady improvement of its PrintRite3D software over time and this latest partnership with one of the most established 3D printing companies in the market should help dispel those earlier speculations by nanalyze and other cautious investors.

However, according to the SEC filings from the end of last year, its maintenance on the Nasdaq is on shaky ground due to the low price of the stock and minimum stockholders’ equity. Perhaps the company’s change in management since its founding, which included the taking on of a new CEO in 2017, will ensure that the company continues developing successfully in the industry.

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