AMS 2023: How Finance Boosts the 3D Printing Ecosystem

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To wrap up the first day of the Additive Manufacturing Strategies (AMS) event in New York City, Stifel Managing Director Bryan Dow hosted a panel about the “Future of Investment in AM.” During the special presentation, attendees got a detailed overview of the future of investment in AM, including what investors are looking for, megatrends, and suggestions for entrepreneurs.

Participants included John Hartner, founder of Digital Industrialist; Stephen Butkow, the managing director and co-head of the Electronics & Industrial Technology Team at Stifel; Arno Held, managing partner at AM Ventures; Shamil Hargovan, STS Capital Partners managing director, and Tyler Benster, general partner for Asimov Ventures.

Deliberating over financial solutions, the panelists shared a message of financial expectations to maximize AM investment. One of the most evident trends that all the experts recognized in today’s economy and amid the current slowdown and highly anticipated recession is that public markets are struggling while private firms are growing.

According to Hargovan, “private is currently more exciting than public.” The M&A expert says now is an excellent time to create a company or invest in a private business. Going one step further, Benster added that during economic downturns, the most prominent companies of the last decade had been formed.

“That’s when the opportunity cost of creating a startup versus a more secure corporate job is less. It is a great time to be an entrepreneur, and seed financing tends to be more resilient in downturns. Over the last five years, AM has become a stable technology and platform where we are starting to see its robustness.”

Special Presentation: Future Investment in AM (From left to right: Bryan Dow, John Hartner, Stephen Butkow, Arno Held, Shamil Hargovan, Tyler Benster). Image courtesy of 3DPrint.com.

In 2022, the volatile market led many investors to preserve their wealth against heightened inflation, rising interest rates, and receding economic growth. As a result, experts have repeatedly anticipated that 2023 will carry on many of the challenges we saw last year. As described in a 3D printing predictions article we released in early January, the industry may face macroeconomic headwinds and the ripple effects of global bottlenecks like ongoing supply chain disruptions. However, there is still robust demand for AM, especially as the technology progresses and evolves in end-use part production, new materials, and workflow software.

Megatrends

As AM continues to add exciting applications to revolutionize the industry, the relevance of the technology escalates. Both Hartner and Held consider that companies focusing on applications, in general, will help deliver more value to their customers. For Hargovan, one of the biggest trends in AM right now is healthcare; especially as the aging population in the world increases, regulatory agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), get “more serious” about medical 3D printed parts and components.

In addition to healthcare, Hargovan also added consumer applications as a “wild card” trend. He explained that even though the segment has “had its day as well as its demise,” he recognized that consumer applications could benefit from a combination of 3D printing technology and other legacy processes that can help create a great business model and do it at scale.

Two of the biggest trends in the 3D printing industry discussed during the panel were sustainability and supply chains. Held emphatically reflected on this particular perspective and highlighted that there is currently a big challenge and tremendous opportunity to develop the applications necessary to help the manufacturing industry with decarbonization. However, for Benster, the supply chain disruptions really changed consumer behavior and will become a megatrend for the AM industry.

As far as entrepreneurs are concerned, the group anticipates that they need to be bold and practical and never lose focus of their core business, which is where the company’s actual value is, concluded Hartner.

Returning for its sixth year, the three-day live business and networking AMS summit kicked off on February 7 and ran through the 9th, with carefully planned panel discussions, exhibitions, and networking events. The event will return in 2024, where attendees will be able to celebrate AM technology’s contributions in many fields with insightful sessions, keynotes, and discussions.

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