Metal 3D Printer OEM Additive Industries Takes on New CEO… Again

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Eindhoven, Netherlands-based Additive Industries brought an integrated vision of automated metal powder bed fusion (PBF) to market. Through wins in Formula 1, as well as general industry, the firm paved a way for its own future. However, lately, Additive Industries has been seeing a lot of headwinds impeding its momentum. Now, we learn that CEO Ian Howe is leaving the firm after a stint of 18 months at the helm.

Additive’s Leadership Changes

Howe came from Oerlikon Surface Solutions with additional experience from Höganäs and GKN. He was seen as a trusted pair of hands to take the company to its next stage. Howe joined the firm together with CFO Carlien Siebelt, who left Additive Industries in June. Siebelt has been replaced by Paul Janissen, while Howe’s role as CEO is being filled by Mark Massey, previously Chief Commercial Officer after working for ThermoFisher.

Outgoing Additive Industries CEO Daan Kersten (l) with Jonas Wintermans (r). Image courtesy of Additive Industries.

His next few months will not be easy. Reportedly, Additive Industries has lost $40 million over the past three years, the stated reason being that orders have slowed due to chip shortages. Rather uniquely, Additive Industries has a single primary shareholder: Highlands Beheer. This family investment fund helped start the company and, in 2020, bought out other investors to obtain 99% of the shares in total by investing an additional $14 million. Highlands can afford to take the long view and invest for the future. However, it is clear now that the firm needs additional investors.

Ti impeller made on Additive Industries’ MetalFab1

Additive’s History and Prospects

When it launched in 2015, Additive Industries was revolutionary in its approach to automation and conveyancing, letting multiple post-process steps to be carried out on the modular MetalFAB1 machine. This greatly reduced costs and could mean more reliability and repeatability as well. The company won blue chip customers and was remarkably good at delivering systems while being frugal and chipping away at the true engineering problems limiting PBF. Indeed, stated funding so far is $24 million which is nothing compared to what other firms have gotten. By the time that hard-charging CEO Daan Kersten stepped down, however, things seemed to go from charging forward to a much slower pace.

In 2020, Additive Industries announced that it was developing a 10-laser system. In our article on the news, we outlined the complexity and risks faced by the myriad firms pursuing machines with so many lasers, stating that, “by competing on such a leap forward directly, these companies have set themselves up for a huge challenge and some or one may not be able to meet this challenge in a very public way.” Compared to the much larger EOS, SLM Solutions (likely to be owned by Nikon) and GE, Additive Industries looks quite small. We compared the technical challenge of going from four to 10 or more lasers by that it would be “akin to every team in the NFL saying, ‘Same as last season but we’re going to do it blindfolded while riding zebras.’l

Can Additive Industries cross the chasm of complexity and make it to the other side? The firm’s offering is credible and it has made a lot of progress with little money. It is also in Eindhoven, which has a formidable industry catering to extreme precision manufacturing pushed forward by ASML.

Prospective Financial Options

ASML is doing well and uses 3D printing for over 200 components on its EUV machines. These are crucial world leading systems for bleeding-edge chip manufacturing and are currently only made by the $20 billion revenue firm. A little nudge from ASML would go a long way. However, ASML is, not very sentimental lets say.

Additive Industries is one of only a few Dutch industrial 3D printing firms but the government of the Netherlands is much less profligate than others when trying to push national champions. Local VCs are much smaller than American funds, while the startup could be a bit too exotic for major bank loans. They could perhaps get EIB loans or something similar, but, so far the most likely scenario is an outside investor.

Nikon’s bid to acquire SLM Solutions is sure to have cleared some dust in more than a few boardrooms. Canon has been remarkably aloof to 3D printing so far. The firm makes lithography equipment which would mean that it may have a need for 3D printing and, at the same time, it could bring QA, optics and process control expertise to bear. Canon has operations in the Netherlands and it would be an inexpensive way to enter a new industry for the $32 billion firm.

Additive Industries could be a tantalizing acquisition for Trumpf, as well or for a large firm like Mazak or similar. Siemens always makes sense. A company like Safran, that has an Additive Industries printer, could very well take an investment in order to assure supply and competition, as well. It would additionally be an interesting investment for Thales and other defense and space firms. Additive Industries remains an attractive asset, but the firm would seem to not have oodles of time to clean up its act and forge ahead once again.

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