Additive Manufacturing Strategies

INDEX Buys Controlling Stake in One Click Metal

ST Medical Devices

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Machine tool manufacturer INDEX acquired a controlling majority interest in One Click Metal, part of a new breed of low-cost metal printing companies. Offering accessible $100,000 powder bed fusion systems, One Click Metal’s machines work with cartridges and are meant to be deployable with fewer requirements in terms of HVAC and other facilities. The firm will still be partially owned by Trumpf, another machine tool company that is also one of the largest firms worldwide in supplying industrial lasers. On top of that, Trumpf manufactures directed energy deposition and laser powder bed fusion 3D printers.

TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG

We reached out to One Click Metal CEO Gerrit Brüggemann, who told us:

“With our origins at TRUMPF, we already benefit from a deep know-how in the fields of lasers and the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) process. In addition to the Laser and LPBF competencies, we also looked for other capabilities in the areas of B2B e-commerce as well as turning and milling expertise to improve the product experience for our customers along the entire customer journey and process chain.

“We found these skills at the INDEX Group. Already in the first discussions, it quickly became clear that, in addition to the rather obvious synergies in production and purchasing as well as turning and milling, we would also encounter deep expertise in the topics of B2B e-commerce as well as in the fields of IoT and digitization. Since INDEX’s customers and their applications are also a good match for the LPBF technology, we see great potential for further optimization of our systems and processes regarding to customer needs.”

INDEX is a large CNC turning machine manufacturer with over 2,000 employees. The firm has a globe-spanning service and sales organization and is represented all over the world by resellers in over 80 cities.

TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG

Furthermore INDEX said:

“This participation provides One Click Metal with additional know-how and capital to continue its growth trajectory in the very promising entry-level segment for 3D printers. TRUMPF remains involved as an active and strategic partner and will support the company’s future development in collaboration with INDEX.

“With a workforce of about 20 employees, One Click Metal develops comprehensive solutions in the field of metal 3D printing for small and medium-sized components. From programming to printing, to unpacking and the powder cycle, all process steps are geared towards the simplest and most convenient use.

“One Click Metal’s customers include businesses from the mechanical engineering, tool manufacturing, and automotive industries, as well as training centers. They use the systems not only for product development and prototyping, but also for industrial production of individual parts and small production runs.”\

I’m not entirely sure why Trumpf is selling off a controlling stake in One Click Metal. I’m very impressed with what the company has achieved over the last two years. Parts coming off the machines look great and they were set to roll out their offering more widely after a limited release to beta testers. I think the value proposition of One Click Metal is spot on and think that—along with Meltio, LMI, and other companies—they are set to be rolled out globally to many machine shops.

A $500,0000 ticket on a metal machine or a $2 million investment to really get into the LPBF game with HVAC, milling and the works is simply too much for many players. It is also a debilitating amount of money for companies that could afford it. This is especially true since it will take you at least a half a year to get anything consistently coherent coming out of your 3D printer. Meanwhile, you need a precious operator and a 3D molding person to really learn, master, and operate a metal printer. We can’t expect most firms to take such an existential gamble in order to get their feet wet in metal printing. Meanwhile, a $100,000 to $200,000 investment in a One Click Metal system is totally doable for tens of thousands of machine shops and factories worldwide.

The machine shops and factories that could use a metal printer to make low-volume runs and niche products with metal 3D printing is vastly larger than the market we are addressing now. Low-cost metal 3D printer manufacturers could sell hundreds, then thousands, and, later, tens of thousands of machines. This is a huge opportunity that is being met by low-cost metal players. You can learn more about that here.

So, INDEX buying a controlling interest in a firm that continues to work with Trumpf to make low-cost metal printers is sheer brilliance. It’s an absolutely fantastic move. The company is young and just starting with revenue. It can’t have been too costly for INDEX. And, now, INDEX gets to ease itself into the metal 3D printing business with a super low-cost metal printer that could be sold around the world.

And who is the perfect salesforce to sell it? INDEX’s existing sales partners and staff. Their entire installed base is made up of people who are qualified leads for this technology. Literally, almost anyone that has bought a Universal Turning Machine or milling machine from them is potentially a One Click Metal customer. They just have to make sure that the machines work well, develop good training, and, slowly but surely, roll it out to their entire installed base. This is a completely beautiful, scalable way to grow a very big business quickly. This is an extremely good development for the German machine tool industry, as well. I do hope that INDEX and Trumpf get along and don’t squash their baby between them. But, if One Click Metal is well managed and allowed to fly, I’d expect a windfall for Trumpf and INDEX.

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