After announcing earlier in the year an option to purchase 3D printing software firm Link3D, Materialise (Nasdaq: MTLS) has agreed to exercise that option and just in time for formnext 2021. The company will purchase 100 percent of Link3D equity interests for US$33.5 million.
“In recent years, we have carefully developed our platform strategy”, says Stefaan Motte, VP and General Manager of Materialise Software. “By joining forces with Link3D we can accelerate the realization of this strategy, which will allow our customers to define and run the most optimal, efficient and sustainable production process. Not only for the production of one-offs, but in particular for scaling production in complex and distributed ecosystems.”
With over 25 years of experience, Materialise is an established leader in the 3D printing industry. Specifically, it runs a leading industrial additive manufacturing service bureau and is a key software developer. Its Magics Build Processor is the backbone of many 3D printers, while other tools in the Magics suite are key for file prep and medical applications. Meanwhile, it has steadily increased its expertise across 3D printing for a number of verticals, including aerospace and consumer products.
“It has always been our mission to help companies scale additive manufacturing and help them achieve their ROI goals”, says Vishal Singh, CTO and Co-Founder of Link3D. “This is a landmark day for the AM industry. The combination of two innovation leaders committed to relentless pursuit of the promise of digital manufacturing.”
With the purchase of Link3D, the company adds a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) to its product portfolio. MES is necessary for the optimization of manufacturing operations, making it possible to track and manage all of the elements within a fleet of 3D printers. This includes waste generated, errors, and more. Link3D’s additive MES solution will be integrated into a cohesive cloud-based software platform such that manufacturers will be able to enhance their operations with greater efficiency, repeatability, automation and control continuously over time.
As Executive Editor Joris Peels noted, Link3D’s software-as-a-service acts as “a gateway drug to other Materialise products. At the same time, it helps Materialise move more towards the cloud and the installed base of Link3D can be cross-sold Materialise software. Of course, the Materialise ecosystem overall becomes more valuable still. I think that this is a good move by Materialise to add Link3D to its offering right now. MESs generally help increase and act as a catalyst for faster 3D printing adoption, so, in this case, it will aid Materialise’s growth, as well.”
In a 3DPrint.com PRO article, Joris wondered about the future of Materialise, a firm near and dear to his heart due to his being a former employee. Never without an uncritical eye, Joris thought it possible that the firm could be weighed down by its service business, with software being the true jewel of the business.
Whether or not his suggestions should direct the future of the company, it would be hard to see Materialise shedding its service side. After all, it is the running and developing of a 3D printing operation that allows the company to advance its software division. Without a fleet of diverse industrial 3D printers, the firm is able to understand what is necessary to improve its software and may not have even understood the need for a solution like that of Link3D.
In this author’s opinion, the purchase signals more advanced 3D printing software. As the technology evolves, these sorts of moves will ensure that additive manufacturing will be more easily integrated into existing production operations. It may even enable the lights-out manufacturing that companies have been dreaming of for nearly a century.
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