The Lubrizol Corporation has purchased Avid Product Development, a 3D printing and engineering services company, marking a significant development for additive materials and the larger industry as a whole.
While it may be best known for its engine oils, Lubrizol is a roughly $6.5 billion specialty chemical company owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. As such, it is one of a number of chemical producers that have been increasing their stakes in the 3D printing materials space, the biggest of which is BASF. The Ohio-based firm has already released its own additive feedstocks (specifically thermoplastic polyurethanes for fused filament fabrication and Multi Jet Fusion), but this acquisition marks a strong move for Lubrizol, as it expands from a material manufacturer to an engineering, 3D printing and post-processing service provider.
Based in Loveland, Colorado, Avid offers design for additive manufacturing, as well as prototyping and production using selective laser sintering, Multi Jet Fusion, fused filament fabrication and stereolithography. Additionally, the company provides post-processing for 3D printed parts. The company serves the footwear, consumer goods, industrial and medical segments and won the 2019 Colorado Company to Watch award. According to a press release sent to 3DPrint.com, Lubrizol plans to combine its expertise in materials, applications and testing with the aforementioned offerings from Avid in order to accelerate 3D printing adoption in key industries.
Gert-Jan Nijhuis, General Manager of 3D Printing Solutions at Lubrizol Engineered Materials, said of the deal:
“Lubrizol continues to invest in opportunities that bring new differentiated solutions to our customers. The acquisition of Avid Product Development greatly enhances our ability as a 3D printing solution provider, offering complete product solutions from material development to printing and post processing services, delivering end-use products for our key markets.”
As industrialized nations purportedly strive to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, oil companies may be looking to supplement demand through petrochemical markets. ExxonMobil admitted as much in a 2018 investor report, stating an expected 30 percent increase in petrochemical demand by 2025.
In turn, not only are we seeing an increasing number of major chemical companies enter the 3D printing industry, but we are seeing them diversify within that space as well. BASF has made the biggest movements, putting money into three different 3D-printed parts makers by partnering with Shapeways, investing in Materialise and acquiring Sculpteo. Mitsubishi Chemicals is also trying its hand at 3D printing parts through a pilot program with AddiFab.
By purchasing Avid, Lubrizol gets out ahead of a number of other chemical companies not described so far, including Dow/DuPont, Eastman, SABIC and more, who seem to be more focused on making materials at this point than using them. However, we have also witnessed a number of investments by companies like DSM and Arkema into new technologies and startups that could greatly expand their foothold in 3D printing once those startups take off.
All of these players are changing the landscape of the 3D printing industry, likely into a more industrially focused space. How that will look in the years to come is anyone’s guess, particularly given the uncertainty of global events at the moment, but the impact will be impossible to overlook.
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