AMS Spring 2023

Inventor of 3D Printed InstaSwab Raises $15M in Series A

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This summer, Massachusetts-based manufacturing startup OPT Industries announced that it was opening a continuous AM facility about 6.5 miles northwest of Boston to scale market access to its flagship 3D printer. The goal was to create products for the consumer and medical industries. If you’ll recall, the proprietary AM system centers around the startup’s RAMP technology, which enables OPT’s mass roll-to-roll 3D printing platform. Now, the startup has raised $15 million in Series A financing to continue meeting the demand for its novel materials design and production.

The MIT spinout’s printer, which allows for continuous 3D printing of materials and products with micron-level precision, was developed over seven years of R&D. During the pandemic, OPT scaled its technology, which resulted in its InstaSwab for COVID-19 nasal swab testing. The novel medical applicator is said to be much more effective in bacterial sample elution and viral sample elution for COVID testing. That’s probably why the leader of this Series A round is global science- and technology-driven venture capital firm Northpond Ventures; existing investors Crosslink Capital and MIT-affiliated E14 Fund also contributed.

InstaSwab™ roll-to-roll 3D photolithography process

“In the field of material science, metamaterials is a fast-developing area that holds enormous untapped potential. OPT’s platform is uniquely capable of designing materials with advanced properties and superior performance across a range of applications including absorption, cushion, insulation, and more,” said Andrea Jackson, Director at Northpond Ventures. “The InstaSwab™ — made of precisely engineered fibrous structures, each thinner than a human hair — exemplifies one of the standout innovations in novel metamaterials. OPT’s technology enabled the design of a more sensitive medical diagnostic test, resulting in real-world impact on patient care.”

“OPT is a prime example of the next generation of manufacturing and how it will have a material impact on building the supply chain of tomorrow. With technology that can enable rapid iterative design, end-to-end automated manufacturing, and continuous locally produced materials for such a wide range of applications, OPT is fast becoming a critical component for supply chain resilience,” said Phil Boyer, Partner at Crosslink Capital.

OPT designs and prints customizable functional materials through the combination of automation engineering, computational design, and material science. Several industries have benefited from the startup’s patented technology, and after it announced the development of its InstaSwab, OPT supplied over 800,000 high efficacy 3D printed InstaSwabs nationwide to healthcare and at-home testing organizations. This is what led to the decision to focus on its end-use product, instead of selling its RAMP printer, and build the new 14,000-square-foot facility.

OPT’s 3D cushion material

“As an advanced manufacturing company, we see the value in building micro-scale technologies that solve macro-scale challenges. OPT works with customers to design and manufacture a novel range of metamaterials and products for the healthcare, automotive, cosmetics and consumer goods industries, and beyond,” said Jifei Ou, the Founder and CEO of OPT. “We will leverage the new financing to address the demand for InstaSwab™, fuel product development, scale operations and grow the team.”

This Series A financing news isn’t all that OPT is sharing. Additionally, the startup announced that next-generation point of care (POC) diagnostics company LumiraDx, based in the UK, has added the InstaSwab to its list of approved nasal swabs for COVID-19 testing. OPT says that its patented product is the first 3D printed swab to make the cut, so that’s pretty exciting.

“The rapid pace at which OPT has moved its technology from lab to market has been remarkable. Within months of the company’s spinout of MIT, OPT quickly found its way across healthcare and testing organizations nationwide. Amid growing demand by Fortune 500 companies and market leaders for OPT’s products, the 3D printing system that Jifei has pioneered has unlocked an entirely new paradigm for product creation from inception to manufacturing,” stated Habib Haddad, Managing Partner at E14 Fund.

While the InstaSwab is a great innovation, the OPT team’s new additive manufacturing site in Medford, Massachusetts will offer commercial-scale supply for applications other than medical devices. So it looks like the startup isn’t slowing down.

OPT’s material sample box

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