Dream 3D Printing Soonicorns: Essentium, ICON & More


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As of July 2021, 291 companies achieved the coveted mythical $1 billion status, far surpassing any previous year’s peak, according to financial platform Crunchbase. With 2021 proving to be a record year for unicorns, many emerging 3D printing startups could soon join the exclusive club. In the first part of this article series, we discussed several soon-to-be-unicorns, or soonicorns for short, but with so many featured-pack 3D printing trends this year, it’s difficult to limit our list to only five companies.

Boasting a $1 billion or higher valuation is not so common in additive manufacturing (AM). Up until now, only three startups increased their valuations to that extent: Formlabs, a Boston-based 3D printer manufacturer born out of MIT Media Lab; Carbon, a California company that created ultra-quick Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology; and Desktop Metal (DM), one of the fastest companies in U.S. history to achieve unicorn status. By December 2020, just three years later, DM began trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, the company is now valued at more than $2.5 billion. Our broader list also included Xometry, Fathom, Oqton, and Fast Radius as soonicorns. However, Xometry has recently gone public and will soon be followed by Fathom sometime in the second half of 2021 and Fast Radius, while 3D Systems acquired Oqton on September 9, 2021.


Driven to deliver innovative industrial 3D printers and materials, Essentium was established to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining for the world’s top manufacturers. The Texas-based industrial 3D printing solutions provider announced this spring that it would aggressively expand to handle the demand for high-speed 3D printing. Most notable for its fast-printing High Speed Extrusion (HSE) Platform, the startup doubled its headcount and now employs more than 100 people. During the RAPID + TCT 2021 event, Essentium made the first public debut of its newest High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D printer, the HSE 280i HT, which is built on independent dual extrusion system (IDEX) technology and is said to deliver high print speeds of more than 500 mm per second.

The startup has come a long way since its inception in 2013, collaborating with public and private customers, including the U.S. Air Force, the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), Reebok, Mitsubishi Chemical, and BASF, and raising funds worth $22.2 million in one Series A round. Essentium, which is ISO 9001:2015 and ITAR certified, has been expanding to meet demands for the last few years. To meet its goals, in 2021, it acquired resin/DLP system manufacturer Collider, which officially came out of stealth mode in 2016 with its hybrid Programmable Tooling technology and Orchid 3D printer and continues to promote the adoption of 3D printing technology actively. As Essentium expands into more industries and applications, driving demand for AM, it will become one of the top contenders on our list of potential soonicorns.

3D printing the military barracks at night ICON’s Vulcan system 3D printing the military barracks for the Texas Military Department at night. Image courtesy of ICON.


Anyone following the space industry in the last few years will certainly recognize our following soonicorn. However, the additive construction technology innovator ICON can be immediately associated with out-of-this-world housing, as this Texas-based startup is helping deliver a 3D printed Martian habitat for NASA‘s analog mission in a field test location at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Known as Mars Dune Alpha, the 1,700 square-foot structure will be the first to simulate a realistic Mars habitat to support long-duration, exploration-class space missions.

ICON has already received $266.5 million in funding from at least 30 investors since 2018, making it another outstanding company in line to become a unicorn. Beyond its work with NASA and ambitious plans to build off-Earth structures for space exploration, ICON has also focused on developing its main additive technology to 3D print housing for humans on Earth.

Its unique next-generation Vulcan construction system is designed and engineered from the ground up for volume 3D printing of homes. The large-scale construction 3D printer is 1.5 times larger, twice as fast, and capable of printing single-story homes and structures up to 3,000 square feet much more sustainably and efficiently than traditional construction techniques. Although the company has not disclosed its valuation, we estimate it’s probably very high at this point, considering how many contracts it has with the U.S. space agency and partnering firms.

3YOURMIND Software 3YOURMIND Software. Image courtesy of 3YOURMIND


The German startup 3YOURMIND is a software provider dedicated to optimizing and automating the 3D printing workflow. Headquartered in Berlin, the company has raised more than $32 million in funding over six rounds. The latest brought in $12.4 million following the closing of its series A+ round in April 2021, boasting investors like AM Ventures,  TRUMPF Venture, and LBBW VC, the venture capital arm of German universal bank Landesbank Baden-Württemberg. Valued at an estimated range of $30 million and $44 million by data company Dealroom, 3YOURMIND hopes to secure its leadership in part identification and digitization of AM processes and expand internationally.

Acting as a partner to leading companies in a wide range of verticals, 3YOURMIND is implementing manufacturing software solutions in production lines worldwide. Recently, we learned that it had partnered with the Phillips Corporation, a service provider and manufacturing partner to the U.S. Federal Government, to improve warfighter innovation and combat readiness.

Similarly, the company’s software suite has been adopted by several industrial high-power players like Volkswagen and Continental and partners like EOS, Bosch, and Carbon just a few days ago. So this high-profile company is definitely one of our top ten startups, on its way to becoming a unicorn in the next few years.

Fortify’s printers include the FLUX ONE (announced in 2020) and the new FLUX CORE and FLUX 3D printers. Image courtesy of Fortify


Boston startup Fortify isn’t just trying to make 3D printers, the company states it wants to transform the 3D printing industry with its patented Digital Composite Manufacturing (DCM) platform. The technology combines magnetics and digital light processing (DLP) to produce custom microstructures in high-resolution 3D printed composite parts. Moreover, the company states that engineers can use the platform to design and print parts with material properties optimized for specific functionality.

Since its inception in 2016, Fortify has won several awards, including the Formnext Startup Challenge in 2018 and the MassChallenge Startup in 2016. So far, it has raised a total of $32.6 million in funding over five rounds. Their latest funding round was in March 2021. So far, the company is seeing a lot of demand from customers and partners, including global leader in engineered materials Rogers Corporation and ceramic powder and resin provider Tethon. With such a high-profile status, this growing 3D printing company was bound to end up on our soonicorn list.

A 3D printed anatomical model by PrinterPrezz A 3D printed anatomical model by PrinterPrezz. Image courtesy of PrinterPrezz


Newcomer California startup PrinterPrezz was founded in 2018 and aims to design and build advanced medical devices by leveraging metal 3D printing, nano, and semiconductor technologies. The fact that this company is driven by a mission to bring more ideas for innovative medical devices to market faster, connecting medicine and manufacturing, makes this company one of our contenders for unicorn status. Self-described as the first “Medifacturing” company globally – a term coined and trademarked by PrinterPrezz – says a lot about this company.

Furthermore, in a rather short time, it has managed to raise a total of $16 million in funding over three rounds. One of its key backers being Solvay, the advanced materials and chemicals company, will also be partnering with the startup to aid in the increased adoption of medical products and implants.

PrinterPrezz has developed what it refers to as a “foundry ecosystem” dedicated to creating medical devices from concept through to volume production. Most recently, this has led to a 510(k) clearance from the FDA for the company’s GAIA Lumbar Interbody Fusion Device family of 3D printed spinal implants made from Ti6Al4V-ELI titanium using laser powder bed fusion technology. Overall, this is a great start for such a young company.

This list is purely for informational purposes alone. It is not directed to any category of investors and should not be regarded as investment advice or should not in any way come across as a recommendation to buy or sell assets.

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