3D Hubs Bought by Protolabs (PRLB) for $320M

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Today, 3D Hubs has been acquired by Protolabs (NYSE: PRLB) for $280 million, with a possible $50 million to follow later. The $280 million is made up of $130 million in cash and $150 million in stock. The Dutch 3D printing service gets a nice exit and will continue to work as a separate brand under Protolabs. The news follows other exciting acquisition developments that include the purchase of Origin by Stratasys and EnvisionTEC by Desktop Metal.

Protolabs CEO Rob Bodor noted:

“The addition of 3D Hubs provides Protolabs a platform to evolve our service model to provide unprecedented manufacturing flexibility to our customers. Our combined organizations will provide the market an industry-leading digital manufacturing solution to serve their needs from idea to prototype to full end-use part production. Together we can fulfill nearly every custom manufacturing need across the product life cycle.”

Bram de Zwart, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at 3D Hubs, added:

“The entire 3D Hubs team is thrilled to join Protolabs and continue to revolutionize the manufacturing industry through innovation. At 3D Hubs, our goal is to empower companies to create revolutionary products through supply chain efficiency and reliability. We are confident that partnering with Protolabs will help us advance that mission,”

Customizable 3D Printed headphones designed by Print+

The company also states that 3D Hubs has made over 6 million parts and stated that “3D Hubs’ 2020 revenue is estimated to be $25 million and the company’s revenue has had a compound annual growth rate of over 200% since 2017.” This is a very frothy valuation and, if you can get more than ten times revenue as a sales price for a 3D printing service, a lot of folks will think of throwing in the towel now.

It’s a good deal for the 3D Hubs team and their investors. They were looking at a very expensive diluting arms race against Protolabs and Xometry. At the same time, Jabil and GKN were also shaping up to be potentially formidable adversaries. Sculpteo being owned by BASF would have also worried many. Those folks will come at you slow and steady like waves rolling in. Again and again, pounding you until your mountain becomes their beach. Financially, this seems like a much better move than to take on a $100 million investment and fight a decade to earn it back again. Money is splashing around the world like almost never before. Amid a pandemic and a shutdown of businesses, we have capital crashing too and fro like it never has. So, for 3D Hubs, it’s a good buy.

For Protolabs, this seems rather expensive, especially in cash. It will also make future acquisitions more expensive still. But, it is a good time to look like a hunter, rather than prey. With large firms like GKN joining the fray, scale and scope are really the only plays possible. Here Protolabs is setting itself up as a one-stop shop for all manufacturing and trying to outscale and grow in the face of younger, aggressive firms, like Xometry, and huge companies, such as GKN. Protolabs needed something to supercharge its own growth. Multiple brands may let them approach different markets, as well. But pursuit of scale has to be the biggest single goal the firm has now. A wave of consolidation may happen and, with some VCs believing that manufacturing-as-a-service may be a winner takes all play, this could get very expensive and competitive very quickly. So, for Protolabs to vacuum up 3D Hubs now seems sensible enough.

Marvin the Millionaire @Thingiverse.com. (Courtesy of RYUJINLAB)

Consolidation in the 3D printing service space was expected. There is a lot to be gained by being large here, from having marketing heft to having bargaining power on materials. The next step in service bureau land will involve a lot of capital having to be brought in to automate depowdering and finishing, which will be very costly in and of itself and reward those that automate post-processing.

With 3D Systems own manufacturing service unit up for grabs, will that be the next company to be sold? Or will someone hoover up companies such as Oceanz and FKM instead? For more ideas about our dream mergers and acquisitions, check out our series on the topic.

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