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Dream 3D Printing Mergers and Acquisitions: Who Will Buy/Merge with Sigma Additive Solutions?

Metal AM Markets
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Sigma Additive Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ: SASI) announced that it has retained Lake Street Capital Markets as its financial advisor as the additive manufacturing (AM) quality assurance (QA) company explores methods for increasing shareholder value. This includes “a possible strategic investment, acquisition, merger, business combination, or similar transaction.”

A small firm, Sigma has been able to hold its own as possibly the oldest AM-specific QA company in the 3D printing industry. With its PrintRite3D package, it is able to combine an array of sensors with software to monitor printer, process, and part health, particularly in metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) machines.  Through programs like America Makes, it has consistently worked with large aerospace firms, like Honeywell, as it developed, then commercialized and marketed its products.

However, as a comparatively old hat in the sector, it is now facing a slew of newer competitors that could potentially overcome some of the challenges of AM QA. In addition to the general complexity of LPBF technology, in-process quality control can be difficult to implement via third party solutions in part because of how one integrates with the machine.

In the past, it was necessary to access space within the printer, which either required the support of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or voiding their warranty. When it comes to LPBF, the second option isn’t really any option, given the high price of the system. Hence, Sigma’s work directly with OEMs and aerospace users through America Makes.

Now, however, there are companies like Additive Assurance and Phase3D, which attempt to achieve QA integration using equipment that mounts on the viewing window of the printer or some other easily accessible entry point. Additionally, legacy QA has been reliant on optical and thermal cameras to capture information about builds, while newer firms, like Phase3D, use structured light scanning and other methods.

Given the current market environment, it may be difficult for smaller firms to remain competitive without inorganic growth. This would typically mean that a large company like Nikon, which has its own metrology solutions for manufacturing and semiconductor production, could swoop in to acquire Sigma. The Mitsubishi Group subsidiary seems to be building out a vertically integrated AM division and, if its own QA technology isn’t fitted specifically to AM, Sigma could enable it to jump right into quality control by combining its own expertise with that of Sigma.

Hexagon AB has also been rapidly expanding its presence in additive more recently and offers its own metrology software and hardware. At the moment, it pitches a variety of solutions for 3D printing, including materials development and characterization, product simulation, and part inspection. What better way to dig deeper into the quality control aspect of this pipeline than with Sigma’s products?

Outside of hardware, Sigma could potentially benefit from having a powerful software developer as a parent. ANSYS and Altair have been focusing on the simulation side of the equation, given that that is their expertise. In-process data capture from Sigma’s solutions could drive this further with more build data to inform these simulations.

However, it need not be a corporate behemoth that addresses the firm’s need to “enhance shareholder value.” Perhaps more realistically, Sigma could merge with one of the smaller emerging firms mentioned. By linking up with Additive Assurance or Phase3D, it could quickly blend shared technology and knowledge, while giving the newer firms access to Sigma’s existing client base and rolodex.

Of course, there are other OEMs aside from Nikon that might want to integrate Sigma technology on all machines. Currently, Sigma lists DMG Mori and Additive Industries as partners on its website, alongside the smaller Aconity3D, which develops its own QA solutions for its open LPBF machines. Vision and motion control manufacturer Novanta could wish to extend its partnership with Sigma for QA LPBF heads through a merger. We can also imagine a private equity firm that no one has ever heard of jumping in to purchase the firm.

The announcement from Sigma includes a legal disclaimer noting, “There can be no assurance that this process will result in the Company pursuing a transaction or that any transaction, if pursued, will be completed.” Even though merger and acquisition activity is down from the preceding two years, it is still ongoing and we have little doubt that something will likely come of Sigma’s news and it will likely happen sooner rather than later.

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