Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Systems Acquires Oqton to Drive 3D Printing for Production

ST Medical Devices

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In the AM industry’s second acquisition of the day, 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) now has an agreement to acquire software startup Oqton, a global SaaS company founded by manufacturing and artificial intelligence experts in 2017 that offers an agnostic, intelligent, cloud-based Manufacturing Operating System (MOS) platform that automates the end-to-end workflow. The total purchase consideration for this particular transaction, comprising both cash and DDD stock, was $180 million, and following required regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in Q4 2021. By acquiring Oqton and its unique AI-enabled MOS solution, 3D Systems hopes to speed AM adoption in production environments, as the system can help automate digital manufacturing for reduced costs and more efficiency on the factory floor.

“We are excited about joining with 3D Systems and look forward to leveraging their knowledge, resources, and ability to continue to innovate and deliver solutions that help companies accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing in production environments,” said Dr. Ben Schrauwen, CEO and Co-Founder of Oqton. “At the same time, we bring our deep expertise in artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, and machine learning, which will help our customers and partners to scale and connect different manufacturing processes in a wide range of healthcare, bio-tech and industrial market verticals.”

Founded in San Francisco, Oqton is based in Ghent, Belgium, with additional offices in China and Denmark. Its platform is meant for flexible production environments that continue adding advanced automation and manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, to their workflows. Last year, the startup partnered with EOS to integrate its AI-automated build preparation workflow directly to customers’ EOS printers in a major step towards a full autonomous manufacturing process, and soon after raised $40 million in Series A funding to improve its software specifically for verticals like 3D printing.

Oqton’s cloud-based solution uses a variety of Industry 4.0 technologies, such as machine learning, AI, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), to give users a better way to scale operations by automating their digital manufacturing workflows, which increases their competitiveness in the industry. Combining these tools with its own MOS platform should ensure adoption of the toughest production workflows—aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, dentistry, and healthcare, to name a few.

“Customers across our industrial and healthcare segments are accelerating the adoption of additive manufacturing into production environments. They have increasingly identified the need for a manufacturing software platform that can easily and intelligently incorporate not only the printers themselves but all digital production systems and key enterprise software to optimize the entire workflow, from raw material to finished and inspected components. The system must be flexible enough to accommodate not only today’s manufacturing technologies but also be easily adaptable to future platform changes,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Graves, President and CEO, 3D Systems. “The Oqton MOS fills this market need by seamlessly leveraging enterprise information and data in the customer’s current ERP, MES, PLM, and CRM systems, as well as the full range of shop floor manufacturing operations and software. The use of APIs to create ease of linkage between these systems is a distinctive attribute of the Oqton MOS. This allows customers to use their choice of manufacturing and automation equipment on the shop floor to meet their unique factory needs. Oqton’s cloud-based MOS solution, with its embedded AI and machine learning capabilities, then optimizes and automates these manufacturing elements in a manner that is not available today. This solution lowers the barrier to adopt AM in a transformative way – through the integration of the solution AND the optimization of the production workflow.”

This year, 3D Systems has been alternately acquiring companies and selling off parts of its own business, including its “non-core software businesses” Cimatron and GibbsCAM; these last two allowed the company to pay off $21 million in debt. Becoming debt-free, along with refocusing on core businesses, were two major goals that Dr. Graves envisioned for 3D Systems, and with rising shares, revenues, and earnings reported for Q3 of 2021, it seems like the company is succeeding. With the addition of software startup Oqton, the company expects that the run rate revenue from software will be more than $100 million by the end of 2025.

To optimize customer use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing methods, such as finishing, machining, and robotic welding, in production environments—an important industry need—Oqton will continue to operate as an independent organization and solution platform within 3D Systems, using third-party verification to keep its data confidential. Additionally, 3D Systems will offer its customer base, along with the rest of the AM industry, increased availability to its advanced software platforms, like Geomagic, 3DXpert, 3D Sprint, and Additive Works’ Amphyon, through optional add-ons to Oqton’s existing MOS platform.

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