2020’s Top 10 3D Printing Business Deals: From Pioneers to Startups


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Looking back on 2020, it seems this unprecedented and tumultuous year has dealt a severe blow to businesses in every corner of the world. Even entire industries had to adapt to survive. Many were downright destroyed, like the travel and personal service sector. But, if there is a silver lining at this point, it could be that the pandemic forced companies to urgently leverage new technologies and adjust supply chains. The digital technology revolution is changing businesses by accelerating the shift toward advanced manufacturing technologies, like 3D printing. This year we have witnessed several 3D printing companies expand through mergers and acquisitions, big IPOs, and by engaging investors to raise funding. As we get ready for 2021, let’s review some of the biggest business deals in the 3D printing industry.

3D Printing Unicorn Desktop Metal Goes Public

3D printing company Desktop Metal resides in the elite world of unicorn startups, a rare class of 452 private businesses valued at more than $1 billion. Just three years after coming out of stealth mode, it managed to raise over $438 million in funding, becoming one of the fastest companies in U.S. history to achieve unicorn status. In 2020, the startup began publicly trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the stock ticker “DM”, following a reverse merger deal with blank check company Trine Acquisitions.

Desktop Metal offers one of the fastest metal 3D printing technologies in the market at up to 100 times the speed of legacy systems, according to the company. Following the merger, Desktop Metal has $580 million in capital at its disposal, a mixture of cash from Trine’s trust accounts and from private investment in public equity (PIPE). Desktop Metal is already expanding its production system lineup with a new printer designed to bridge process development and full-scale metal parts mass production.

Desktop Metal goes public at NYSE. Image courtesy of Co-founder of Construct Capital Dayna Grayson via LinkedIn

Arburg Owners Purchase German RepRap

The takeover of pioneering fused filament fabrication (FFF) startup German RepRap was officially confirmed on February 12, 2020, by the entrepreneurial families Hehl und Keinath, owners of Arburg. An almost century-old company, Arburg focuses mainly on injection molding equipment but also builds 3D printers that use a process called Arburg Plastic Freeforming (APF), which the company believes is technologically linked to the German RepRap x500pro 3D printer system. Since the acquisition, the two companies have continued their work independently, as German RepRap, with its 23 employees, maintains operations as a separate startup at its headquarters in Feldkirchen, near Munich, but have agreed to share technological resources. Furthermore, German RepRap founder Florian Bautz still remains in his role as CEO to this day.

The German RepRap family of 3D printers. Image courtesy of German RepRap

Covestro Takes Over Royal DSM 3D Printing Business

On more German acquisition news, materials company Covestro bought Royal DSM’s Resins and Functional Materials businesses, including DSM Niaga, DSM Additive Manufacturing, and the coatings activities of DSM Advanced Solar, for €1.6 billion. These businesses represented €1,012 million of the global science-based company’s 2019 total annual net sales and €133 million of DSM’s 2019 total EBITDA. The combination of DSM and Covestro is expected to create a business of enhanced scale and technological capability that will benefit existing and potential customers with a stronger growth platform. DSM Additive Manufacturing had only recently acquired Clariant’s 3D printing business, so this marks a surprising turn of events for the 3D printing industry, as DSM was one of the most active players in the industry. The company has an extensive portfolio of 3D printing materials for additive, including Powder Bed Fusion (PBF), Stereolithography (SLA), and FFF, and a host of new materials for AM.

3D Systems Sells Cimatron CAD/CAM Business for $65M

Global 3D solutions company 3D Systems has embarked on a plan to strengthen and reorganize its direction. Along with a new President and CEO came several announcements, like the layoff of about 20% of the workforce during the summer and a restructuring game plan. Newly appointed CEO Jeffrey Graves has suggested that companies that had acquired a great deal of businesses were undoubtedly set up for inefficiencies in their structure, and 3D Systems had over 50 companies under its umbrella when he took over.

In an attempt to “return to normalcy” – as Graves described it – 3D Systems announced in November 2020 the sale of its business Cimatron, and all its related subsidiaries, to global investment firm Battery Ventures. Cimatron is an Israeli software company that operates the Cimatron integrated CAD/CAM software for the manufacturing, toolmaking, and CNC programming applications, and the GibbsCAM CNC programming software businesses. Once the sale of its Cimatron and GibbsCAM businesses has been completed, 3D Systems will continue with its plan, next evaluating if it even needs an at-the-market equity offering program.

Local Motors Receives Investment for Autonomous 3D Printed Shuttle

Since Local Motors began series production for the latest iteration of Olli — the electric, self-driving shuttle successfully deployed in several cities around the world — Local Motors’ parent company LM Industries (LMI) says that there has been a “significant resurgence” in interest from people looking for safe, reliable transportation. In October 2020, the company announced it had received $15 million from the Mirai Creation Fund II, managed by Japanese asset management firm SPARX Group. The funds will be used to move product development along for the autonomous 3D printed Olli, as well as drive production and deployment for the shuttle, getting it to the consumers and customers looking to change up local mobility in a major way.

3D printed Olli shuttle by Local Motors. Image courtesy of Local Motors

Made In Space Acquired by New Space Company Redwire

Made In Space, a US-based company specializing in the engineering and manufacturing of 3D printers for use in microgravity was acquired by a newcomer to the space sector, Redwire. Made In Space was the first company to install a 3D printer in the International Space Station (ISS), and has since sent up four more facilities that allow customers to print objects off-Earth. Redwire’s goal fit in nicely with that of Made In Space, as the company seeks to be a leader in “mission-critical space solutions and high-reliability components for the next generation space economy.” Redwire came into the scene at just the right time, as Made In Space is exploring new projects, like Archinaut, a system meant for the additive construction of large-scale objects, such as satellites, in space, as well as in-space fiber optics pulling, material recycling, and metal 3D printing.

Nexa3D Partnered with Resellers in Five Countries

Nexa3D, which specializes in producing ultra-fast stereolithography 3D printers powered by its proprietary Lubricant Sublayer Photo-curing (LSPc) technology, is growing its reseller network. In May 2020, the company announced a reseller partnership with 3DZ Group in southern Europe, and in June it added several new global reseller partners that cover Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, North America, and South Africa. With its flagship NXE400 system, which is meant to break productivity and speed barriers at scale, Nexa3D hopes to provide recovering manufacturers a better and faster way to adapt, and remain resilient, should another worldwide crisis arise that disrupts supply chains like COVID-19 has.

After the highly anticipated 2020 Formnext Connect event, 3DPrint.com virtually caught up with Nexa3D CEO Avi Reichental, who announced the creation of a customer success center in partnership with leading German reseller Disc Direct, as well as an extended presence in Japan, the first reseller partner in Mexico and Nexa3D presence in the Chinese market coming soon.

Nexa3D NXE400. Image courtesy of Nexa3D

GoProto Buys 3D Systems’ Australian Site

Rapid manufacturing company GoProto announced the acquisition of 3D Systems’ Australian facility, which is the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region’s largest digital manufacturing service bureau, as well as the acquisition of 3D scanning and digitizing experts WYSIWYG 3D in the same region. Strategic decision-making led GoProto to acquire the 3D Systems facility, which was only commissioned two years ago and is home to an experienced operations and management team, as well as many 3D Systems production 3D printers. With these acquisitions, GoProto can now call itself the Australian market’s largest digital manufacturer. The WYSIWYG 3D acquisition, which took place in November 2020, is meant to help GoProto set up a cooperative 3D and laser scanning presence in order to grow the digital manufacturing space.

Simon Marriott, Director of GoProto (left) welcoming James Sanders, GM at 3D Systems Asia Pacific (right) and his team to the GoProto Group. Image courtesy of GoProto

Bioprinting Firm Cellink Acquired Scienion AG for €80M

Global 3D bioprinting leader Cellink acquired all the shares of German precision dispensing company Scienion AG in an €80 million deal. Through this strategic decision, Cellink hopes to expand its technology portfolio, particularly into the pharmaceutical industry and therapeutic field, as well as cater for processes from early R&D to standardized high throughput production and enhance its presence in the clinical field. The company is interested in providing the entire workflow universe that researchers demand, everything from single-cell printing solutions, all the way to printed tissue and the analysis of that tissue.

Stratasys to Acquire 3D printing Startup Origin in $100M Deal

One of the last business deals of the year came from Stratasys, the global American-Israeli 3D printing solutions provider. On December 9, 2020, the company announced it signed an agreement to acquire open SLA startup Origin, in a transaction for a total consideration of up to $100 million. The merger enables Stratasys to expand its leadership through innovation in the fast-growing mass production parts segment with a next-generation photopolymer platform.

In an interview with Origin co-founder Chris Prucha, 3DPrint.com found out that the startup-turned-subsidiary will benefit from being a part of a larger corporate entity, share corporate functions, and lean on Stratasys’s extensive reseller network. But at the same time, Origin will not be engulfed by Stratasys. The company gets to keep its headquarters in San Francisco, instead of moving to Stratasys’ home state of Minnesota but will benefit from Stratasys’ existing channel partners to cross-sell Origin equipment.

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