Following a decade-old trend, the AM sector continues producing exciting startups across a wide range of verticals. From medicine to aerospace, the sector seeks to disrupt its share of industries. Despite the economic downturn of 2022, which led to a withdrawal from the record venture capital funding rounds of 2021, VC firms continued putting their faith in the 3D printing market.
We chose to highlight ten early-stage spinout startups from the growing 3D printing sector, all founded post-2019. By harnessing the potential of additive manufacturing and bioprinting technologies, these startups have been very active in the last year and collectively raised close to $80 million in venture capital funding (although 38% of that total goes to the recently spun GE companies).
Matta: Intelligent 3D printers
Still in stealth mode, Matta was founded in 2022 as a spinoff from the University of Cambridge. Based on the work of a team of engineers and scientists, the company’s self-learning patent pending AI technology and algorithms aim to correct 3D printing errors for different parts, materials, and systems. Currently, the team is developing a universal operating system for 3D printers, leveraging the latest machine learning research and the power of the cloud to bring intelligence to additive manufacturing. Ultimately, the team is working on applying its learning algorithms end-to-end, from design to manufacture, enabling the creation of “highly complex products with unrivaled consistency.”
Algorithms that detect and correct various errors in real-time are highly valuable and can be easily added to new or existing machines to enhance their capabilities. To prove their technology, the founders of Matta explained their low-cost approach in an article published in the journals Nature Communications, Additive Manufacturing, and Advanced Intelligent Systems.
Additive Assurance: Quality control
When companies like Volkswagen and Boeing need to ensure their 3D printed parts have no defects, they turn to Monash University spinout Additive Assurance. This Australian startup commercializes a novel in-situ process monitoring tool for laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) metal AM. Better known as AMiRIS, this technology allows manufacturers to ensure the structural integrity of components as they are being made and correct any anomalies when they occur. Even more so, this new approach to AM process monitoring enables new avenues in automated fault detection, prediction, and prevention.
Based on patent-pending technology, AMiRIS combines a suite of optical sensors to gather micron-level detail and, through machine learning, provide rich insight into the process. With its latest funding round, Additive Assurance has raised AU$ 5.9 million ($4 million). It plans to establish an AM quality assurance center of excellence at its Melbourne, Australia headquarters and expand the team internationally.
Vitro3D: Volumetric 3D printing
Also making its way onto our list is University of Colorado at Boulder spinout and Colorado Life Science Incubation Program alum Vitro3D. Known for developing a new volumetric 3D printing method for producing dental aligners and scaffolds for 3D cell culture and tissue engineering, the company has recently raised $1.3 million in an oversubscribed seed round.
Claiming its process is 100 times faster than existing 3D printing techniques, Vitro3D says it will produce prototype printers capable of delivering complex 3D objects in seconds. Additionally, it has stated that using the Vitro3D Volumetric Cartridge Printer will help solve one of the largest pain points in the dental market by allowing dentists to make custom aligners in-house. Founded in 2020, this biotech research startup plans to lease its proprietary volumetric 3D printer to dentists and orthodontists.
Under the “reimagining manufacturing” motto, Vitro3D hopes to serve the broader patient point-of-care market beyond dental in the future.
Fortius Metals: Wire-based solutions
Fortius Metals simplifies the path to large-format metal 3D printing thanks to its patented welding alloys. A spinoff of Elementum 3D, the materials manufacturer supplies novel powdered feedstocks that meet the demands of aerospace customers and robotic welding fabricators. Headquartered in Louisville, Colorado, Fortius Metals uses patented technology to introduce high-performance metal alloys and has been initially focused on aircraft-grade aluminum welding wire for arc and laser-directed energy deposition (DED).
The company counts angel investors as backers and recently closed a $2 million seed round led by AM Ventures, a leading venture capital firm in industrial 3D printing (one of the networking sponsors at the 2023 edition of Additive Manufacturing Strategies event in New York). Following the recent investment, the company has raised $3.7 million since being founded in 2021.
Systemic Bio: Organ models for the future
Biotech startup Systemic Bio spun out of 3D Systems in 2022 and will leverage 3D Systems bioprinting technologies to create precise vascularized organ models using biomaterials and human cells. Based in Houston, Texas, the startup has already snagged $15 million in seed funding from its parent company to demonstrate the efficacy of its technology and business model, with targeted revenues of Systemic Bio approaching $100 million annually within five years.
Targeting pharmaceutical discovery and development, the startup says it will bioprint highly complex, custom-designed, vascularized tissues for its proprietary organ-on-a-chip platform, called h-VIOS. Beyond providing organ-on-a-chip test samples, pharmaceutical companies may also seek to retain Systemic Bio to provide contract research services and procure custom-designed h-VIOS to perform their research and testing.
GE spinoff: A splitting trend
GE (NYSE: GE) has decided to break down into smaller, publicly traded units: GE Aerospace, GE HealthCare, and GE Vernova. It won’t be the first conglomerate to follow this trend; others like Kellogg’s, Johnson & Johnson, and Toshiba have also announced plans to split massive enterprises.
Whether this is just the beginning of the trend, we can’t say for sure, but one thing 3DPrint.com Editor-in-Chief Michael Molitch-Hou is pretty sure of is that the move will likely leave GE Additive with the aerospace division. However, its technology has also been crucial to its energy division (soon to be GE Vernova) and GE HealthCare, so that would leave the Additive branch “lending its operations to all three divisions.” Currently located across several countries in Europe, GE Additive, founded in 2016, has been working towards creating AM centers worldwide to accelerate the use of the technology.
GE HealthCare spinoff began trading on the Nasdaq on January 5, 2023, under the ticker GEHC. At the same time, GE Vernova intends to base its global headquarters in Massachusetts as part of its plan to become an independent company in early 2024. With the most valuation potential, GE Aerospace is already signing deals as an independent company. First on its list is a $203 million contract with the Department of Defense for new jet engine technologies.
Heteromerge: Multi-material prints
As a spinoff from Germany’s Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden), Heteromerge is working to realize its microscale multi-material 3D printing vision. Funded through the EXIST Transfer of Research aid program, the startup is developing a next-generation high-resolution, automated 3D printing system that enables multi-material printing even in extremely small structure sizes of down to 100 nanometers.
According to TU Dresden, the technology forms a “missing link” for a wide variety of new application areas, especially in the fields of micro-optics and micro-fluidics as well as in photonics packaging, but also the field of tissue engineering, and thus becomes an enabler for the industrial use of high-precision printer systems.
Syenta: Transforming electronics manufacturing
Also in the multi-material field, Australian 3D printer startup Syenta has recently raised AU$3.7 million ($2.5 million) in a seed funding round to accelerate the production of its multi-material 3D printers that allow customers to highly complex and functional electronics like semiconductors, batteries, and sensors.
An Australian National University (ANU) spinoff and Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) coworking alums, Syenta’s mission is to democratize electronics manufacturing. Operating in stealth mode since 2020, Syenta – which recently changed its name from Spark3D – originally developed a unique electrochemical 3D printer to fabricate polymer, semiconductor, or metallic structures – all within a single device.
Tailor Surgery: Personalized surgeries
Founded in 2021, Tailor Surgery spun out of the Parc Taulí Research and Innovation Institute (I3PT), targeting 3D printing in traumatology. The startup provides a complete 3D digital surgery service for orthopedic surgical procedures and delivers fully customized patient-specific instruments, fully customized implants, and all the complementary instruments surgeons need for each patient. One of the keys to the startup’s potential is its surgeons and engineers working together to custom-make surgical guides with biocompatible materials.
Before Tailor Surgery became a startup, a team at I3PT established a 3D Laboratory as a response to the clinical and research needs of Parc Taulí. Since then, 3D printing has been used to diagnose and treat patients exponentially and has aided in performing roughly 500 surgeries in Spain. Moving forward, the spinoff will also focus its activity on designing and manufacturing personalized implants.
Born at MIT in 2019, OPT Industries specializes in designing and mass-producing products that demand extreme precision at the micron scale. The startup’s flagship 3D printing technology, RAMP, is powered by roll-to-roll-based digital photolithography, currently serving the medical and consumer products sectors. Some of the most recent commercialized products include the InstaSwab, a high-performance nasal swab; Lumofil, a mascara applicator customized for distinct lash profiles; and PolyBrush, a replaceable brush mat to line vibratory conveying surfaces. As of August 2022, the company has raised more than $20 million in funding and launched a 14,000-square-foot manufacturing site which helped broaden R&D, manufacturing, and fulfillment capabilities.
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