AM Investment Strategies
AMS Spring 2023

Tronix3D Acquired by Agile Space Industries to Ramp up Aerospace 3D Printing

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Agile Space Industries (Agile), a developer of propulsion engines for spacecraft, acquired the 3D printing service bureau Tronix3D for an undisclosed amount and rebranded it as Agile Additive. The wholly-owned subsidiary will now enable Agile to accelerate speed and quality across the aerospace supply chain while developing proprietary innovations around metal 3D printing. Additionally, Agile will optimize the performance of its propulsion systems used to power NASA and SpaceX’s upcoming lunar missions. The deal ensures the Tronix3D team and the relationships with customers will not change. Instead, they will be empowered and supported by one of the leading aerospace companies in propulsion.

Through the buyout of Tronix3D, Agile said it would have a new specialized additive manufacturing (AM) division wholly focused on advancing the “state-of-the-art in 3D printing for aerospace.” With this milestone and the addition of Tronix3D’s certified manufacturing facility, Agile hopes to deliver lower costs, shorter schedules, and even greater technical assurance for flight hardware deliveries. According to a recent Forbes interview with Agile’s CEO Jeffrey Max, the move is part of an expansion strategy that also includes an ongoing $10 million Series A funding round to provide backing for more mergers and acquisitions, as well as additional capital to finance investment in its facilities and accelerate the move into manufacturing.

Max said that “having worked with Tronix3D as a supplier, we were continually impressed with their ability to develop new proprietary processes for working with these very challenging materials and geometries of our next generation space propulsion systems. We realized that if we integrated these competencies internally at Agile, it would further accelerate the innovation, quality, and timeliness of the products that we deliver to our clients.”

Tronix3D facilities have now been rebranded as Agile Additive. Image courtesy of Agile Additive.

Known as the greater Pittsburgh’s first high-volume additive contract manufacturer and innovation center, Tronix3D has made incredible progress with several high-profile companies and government agencies, including the U.S. Army and industry partner Trumpf Additive. The business went beyond just providing rapid prototyping, high-volume end-use parts manufacturing, and engaged in innovative projects and novel product developments.

It was recently granted certifications under the internationally recognized standards for quality management systems (QMS) ISO 9001 and AS9100, the latter specific to the aviation, space, and defense industry. Along with the certifications, new technologies have continually been introduced at Tronix3D’s facilities in Pleasant, Pennsylvania, including the Trumpf TruPrint 2000, its third metal printer, an installed base of Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers from HP, SLA 3D printers from Envision One cDLM, and more.

Following the closing of the deal, Tronix3D said it considered the acquisition an “incredible leap forward” in the overall joint capabilities and technologies, providing the team with the potential for rapid, sustainable growth. Tronix3D Co-Founder and now President of Agile Additive, Buck Helfferich, said that the company’s advancements in 3D printing novel alloys make parts that used to be complex or even impossible achievable. “For Agile Space Industries and the aerospace industry at large, our innovations across materials, unique build geometries, and in situ print monitoring will allow us to deliver the intricate and structurally sound parts.”

Agile Space Industries delivers turnkey propulsion solutions. Image courtesy of Agile Space Industries.

For Agile, the acquisition accelerates its development, design, and delivery of complex, high-performance aerospace components to transform how space companies execute their most demanding missions. The space technology company founded in 2009 has seen its share of high-profile contracts with both government and some of the biggest players in the space industry.

It was recently selected to provide the thrusters for Astrobotic’s 2023 NASA lunar mission, which has chosen SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the space agency’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) lunar rover to study permanently shadowed regions of craters at the moon’s south pole, which may contain deposits of water ice that could serve as resources for future crewed missions.

Agile Space Industries propulsion technologies: thrusters built with Agiles in-house additive technologies. Image courtesy of Agile Space Industries.

Having conducted more than 6,000 successful hot-fire tests and developed 20-plus propulsion technologies over the last decade, Agile has been trusted by customers like the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Dynetics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Moog, and Boeing. Its propulsion technologies include ready-to-fly integrated propulsion platforms for spacecraft, reusable tanks, and thrusters that already leverage Agile’s in-house additive manufacturing technologies. Through the new addition, it expects to continue delivering aerospace technologies that allow spacecraft to be lighter and faster, so they can withstand extreme temperatures, fly farther, and last longer.

As the space race fires up, some of the top names in the industry are looking at advanced manufacturing processes to deliver new technologies for the upcoming era of off-Earth exploration and colonization. Whether it’s for moon landings or deep space exploration, Agile’s latest acquisition could help accelerate the delivery of its sophisticated propulsion engines and get spacecraft where they need to go much quicker.

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