Signs of the Additive Manufacturing Comeback
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Return to Growth
Hit hard by the initial impacts of coronavirus lockdowns, early predictions for a quick return to growth for additive manufacturing are already moving from fantasy to reality.
- When 3DPrint.com PRO launched in the first quarter of 2020, the thing on everyone’s minds was the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus impacts to manufacturing and the economy, and how additive manufacturing technology might play a role in filling supply chain gaps. Shortly after, speculation arose regarding increasing interest in additive technologies resulting from some successes on the medical front.
- We are now well into Q4, a time when many, including us, had originally predicted a return to ‘pre-COVID’ business levels in additive markets and the beginning of a possible longer term boost in the market resulting from significantly increased awareness levels on the benefits of AM in an obviously fragile manufacturing supply chain and global economic system.
Currently no one is out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but SmarTech has been observing a number of areas across the industry that are showing the positive indications we’ve been hopeful would emerge to re-energize investment and adoption of AM technologies. There are three areas we have been monitoring throughout 2020 closely gauging what the likely outlook might be for AM over the next three years in particular—a critical time following multiple quarters of slowing industry growth. These areas are:
- Investments into established additive manufacturing businesses from private equity
- Increases in production/business levels for additive manufacturing services
- Returning additive manufacturing hardware sales.
Below we present some examples and observations from these three key indicators over the last six months which all add up to realizing our previously projected bounce-back and return to growth.
Investments: Companies and Investors Still Willing to Put Money into Additive Manufacturing
If big companies or private investor groups who control significant capital still are willing to invest in additive manufacturing ventures—especially those which are already established and not the latest flash in the pan story—then it speaks to the value proposition of AM. Sure, many of these investments are looking for longer term returns. Meanwhile, additive manufacturing certainly has appeared undervalued in the last eighteen months based on our analysis tracked by SmarTech’s AM market advisory services.
- Metal AM machine company Additive Industries secured €14 million in private investment in May, despite the metal powder bed fusion segment struggling for several quarters. Velo3D, another relative newcomer to the metal powder bed fusion market, secured $40M in two separate investment rounds thus far in 2020.
- Equispheres, a provider of additive manufacturing materials (especially metals), also announced C$30M in a series B. Meanwhile, tertiary AM companies have received investments; AM-Flow raised $4M just earlier this month. And just prior, in September, AM software company 3YOURMIND announced a $5.5M series A investment round.
- AM production services providers like Sintavia also have gotten in on the fundraising spark this year with an undisclosed investment from Sumimoto Corp.
- Though not pureplay AM companies, both nTopology and Xometry stake a sizeable portion of their business on additive technologies. These two also secured $40M, and $75M investments during the third quarter of 2020.
All of this is to say nothing of Desktop Metal’s announcement to go public, which is expected to result in a huge sum of cash for the company to scale operations and advance the arena of bound metal printing, though an actual IPO isn’t expected to take place until December.
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