AMS Spring 2023

Formlabs Reaches Double Unicorn Status with $150M Series E Round

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3D printing unicorn Formlabs has announced yet another funding round, led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2*. The $150 million Series E has brought the startup’s valuation to $2 billion. The funding will be used to expand the company’s technology portfolio and its overall staff. Deep Nishar, Senior Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, will be joining the startup’s Board of Directors, while Softbank Investment Partner Kirthiga Reddy will be a Board Observer.

Production-ready parts printed on the Fuse 1 3D printer could end the dependence of small-to-medium sized companies on outsourcing to injection molding firms for production-ready parts.

Formlabs began as an MIT spinout that sold the first low-cost stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer on Kickstarter to massive applause. Now, the company is on the third generation of its SLA machines, with a more efficient and higher resolution 3D printing process, and has even entered the low-cost selective laser sintering (SLS) market. On top of that, its equipment has been used to 3D print over 85 million parts, which includes tens of millions of nasopharyngeal swabs for COVID-19 testing.

The Form 3L batch producing vacuum nozzles. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Given the spat of SPACs, we may have previously thought a public listing was imminent, but this new round of funding suggests that there may still be some room for private growth before an IPO. With $150 million in investment, one wonders what will come next. Max Lobovsky, CEO and co-founder of Formlabs, hinted at the development of new technology:

“Today, most 3D printing technology is still too expensive and difficult to use for widespread adoption. Our laser focus on improving the user experience and quality of these machines while bringing down the cost is central to our success and the growth of the industry. With this investment, we plan to expand our current portfolio of SLA and SLS technology and accelerate our product development to continue delivering on the expectations of the 3D printing industry.”

We’ve already got low-cost SLA and SLS from the Formlabs crew. And we know they know lasers. Could they be working toward a low-cost metal 3D printer? Then, they would fit in alongside the push-button metal developers Executive Editor Joris Peels recently wrote about. If so, they would certainly as close to push-button as possible, given the sleek Apple-like nature of their existing products, demonstrated to 3DPrint.com in our virtual reviews of the Form 3L and Fuse 1.

Test swabs printed by Formlabs. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

That’s my best guess, but they could pull out a complete surprise: Bound metal printing? Low-cost inkjet? Maybe they’ll announce the release of one of those giant-gantry concrete 3D printers. And then, when the time is right, they’ll merge with a SPAC for a public listing. Or perhaps they’ll get acquired by Desktop Metal or 3D Systems. Regardless of what happens, I promise: something will happen.

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