My dad has a Sandvik saw blade. It’s a great tool that has lasted many years. Now, Sandvik saws are owned by Snap-On. The rest of Sandvik has grown into a steel behemoth that makes mining components and steels. Sandvik is going to be entering a consumer market again, however. The company owns a significant stake in Italian service bureau BEAMIT, which acquired service company Zare in August 2020. Via Zare, this Matryoshka of companies has now acquired a majority stake in Proxera, an Italian medical and dental 3D printing service.
So, Sandvik can now mine, make powder, post-process, and wants to 3D print your next medical implant. This move to consolidation was one that we anticipated in previous posts about Sandvik. The Matryoshka doll approach also means that Sandvik itself is insulated against large liabilities that could result from things going wrong with medical implants.
“We are looking at the future with great confidence and an unchanged sense of social responsibility. With Proxera we want to be extraordinary leaders in technological breakthroughs and have a wider impact on society and people’s life. With this acquisition we are immediately ready to use one of the most revolutionary technologies; one that is destined to transform how patients are treated, hence their quality of life,” CEO of Zare and newly appointed president of Proxera, Andrea Scanavini, said of the acquisition. “Certain personalised solutions and designs cannot be obtained with anything other than additive manufacturing, which guarantees maximum precision within extremely tight timeframes. Our team’s vast wealth of experience, combined with a supply chain driven and managed internally, enables us to maximise the potential of 3D printing to produce lightweight, sturdy, tailor-made components exceptionally quickly.”
This makes Sandvik a major player in 3D printing. At the same time, the company is building a superalloys plant, which sees its capacity for materials for space and aerospace increase. By being so thoroughly integrated vertically, the company can learn an immense amount from what is needed in terms of powder and processing at each step. There are a lot of variables and many different effects and outcomes in 3D printing. Tackling them all—from file prep, to destressing, to HIP finishing and then making a certified part for a critical application—is very difficult.
Now Sandvik is doing all of this and can match the needs of that with the powders that they design. This is an incredible advantage for a powder company. GKN can also do this through its GKN production businesses, which use 3D printing, and its powders unit. Oerlikon also has powder and service businesses. This trio of very disparate firms have all made significant investments in 3D printing and stand to reap outsized benefits from them. GE also makes powders and has an OEM business, but doesn’t yet want to sell 3D printed parts to other people.
Proxera CEO Andrea Pasquali noted, “Technological advances in the medical field are always fascinating. With implants for example, a lack of customisation and the lead-times for a finished medical device can have a negative impact on the quality of life for patients who need urgent surgery. The world is only now realising that additive manufacturing is the most revolutionary manufacturing technology”.
Proxera itself is a dental implant manufacturing firm, making crowns and bridges mostly using Concept Laser machines. The dental metal 3D printing business was very problematic for a while, so they may have picked this up on the cheap, especially since there has been a slowdown in many surgeries and dental clinics worldwide during COVID. It is clear from the copy and images we were sent that implantology and things like acetabular cups will feature in the firm’s future growth plans.
Sandvik and their Italian friends are investing in owning the entire value chain. I think that this is a very good idea indeed, especially in medical devices and aerospace. Control and reputation, along with expensive certifications, is an essential part of maintaining a lead in these highly regulated industries. 3D printing definitely has value in implants and this is a growing market. Making medical devices is also an extremely high-margin, precision business to be in (<40%). And once you have established leadership, it will be hard to dislodge you. Sandvik’s rocks-to-implants business seems like a logical but bold step forward for the firm.
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