Sakuu, a California-based 3D printed battery cell manufacturer, is slated to go public via a merger with Plum Acquisition Corp. I (NASDAQ: PLMI), a blank check company led by former CEO and Chairwoman of Xerox Ursula Burns. Upon closing of the transaction, Sakuu and Plum will be renamed Sakuu Holdings, which is expected to be listed on a US national exchange under the ticker symbol “SAKU.” The combined company will have an estimated post-transaction value of $705 million, although Sakuu was once valued at over $1 billion.
Even though the transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2023, the deal is contingent on Sakuu raising $100 million in private and public capital, including from structured debt and equity solutions, secured debt, and Plum’s cash in trust.
One of the biggest highlights of the Silicon Valley company is the development of a proprietary 3D printing platform that can mass produce solid-state batteries (SSB) in any shape and size. In theory (and once commercialized), SSBs are lined up to replace lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EVs). They are developing worldwide, with many automakers, such as Nissan, Toyota, and BMW, planning to launch vehicles with the first SSBs by 2025.
According to experts, they’re still in the works, and companies have yet to demonstrate the ability to mass produce them. However, for Sakuu, pioneering 3D printed SSB cells at scale has become its mission.
Formerly known as KeraCel, Sakuu was founded in 2016 to pioneer mass-scale state-of-the-art battery technology and printing. The company claims that since the start, it was set on disrupting battery manufacturing and technology, which led to the creation of its Kavian additive manufacturing (AM) platform for battery production and its proprietary SwiftPrint technology to 3D print lithium-ion, lithium metal, and solid-state batteries, for the EV market, as well as a variety of other industries.
After rebranding in 2021, the company unveiled its Sakuu AM Platform, a multi-material, multi-layer system that combines binder jet and powder bed 3D printing to process multiple ceramics and metals within the same part layer. Instead of a slow layer-on-layer printing or screen-printing—inherently wet processes that require significant energy to remove unwanted solvents and are susceptible to poor printing quality and unreliable production, Sakuu says its invention can deliver low-cost, high-speed manufacturing capability coupled with flexibility in shape and form.
The company recently tapped into a part of its $62 million funding to open a new facility for its battery 3D printing platform. The multi-million-dollar site was created to aid in the highly anticipated commercialization of the multi-material AM technology for producing SSBs.
Although battery 3D printing is generally still in the early stages, the technology has made strides in recent months. Sakuu, in particular, announced just a week ago that it has “consistently been able to use its Kavian AM platform for battery production” since December 2022. This company update came at the heels of other benchmark achievements, including selecting Porsche Consulting to lead the planned establishment of Sakuu gigafactories dedicated to SwiftPrint battery output. These announcements, combined with the news of a merger deal to go public, could mean that the company is finally ready to move into commercialization.
Sakuu claims that its manufacturing platforms are intended to be first deployed for commercial-scale solid-state battery production, with existing purchase orders totaling more than $300 million between 2023 and 2025. In addition, Sakuu intends to license its battery chemistries and sell its Kavian platforms to companies seeking to deploy cleaner, better, and more cost-effective energy at scale. Samples of Sakuu’s safe, non-flammable high energy density Lithium-metal anode battery have been evaluated and tested by customers in multiple markets since the third quarter of 2021, affirming the company.
Pioneering the possible?
Commenting on the latest move, Sakuu Founder and CEO Robert Bagheri propose that Sakuu’s high-volume Kavian solution for printing batteries can potentially leap-frog decades of manufacturing stagnation.
“We believe Kavian is the only known solution for producing heavily in-demand products, such as solid-state batteries, that can be custom-printed rapidly and cost-effectively—taking next-generation battery manufacturing to realms never imagined. […] We are not a concept company—we have successfully and consistently printed high-performance batteries since December 2022. With this progress, we have entered the first stages of commercialization,” suggests the executive.
In fact, Plum Chairwoman Burns indicated that Sakuu’s 3D printing Kavian platform had impressed her and that the massive addressable market associated with solid-state batteries could be the tip of the iceberg for the business.
According to the companies, funds from the transaction are expected to support Sakuu entirely through its commercialization process in 2023. Furthermore, the proposed business combination with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Plum is anticipated to provide Sakuu with unique industry insight and experience. Considering the brutal downturn in the SPAC market, this is just what the company may need to sail swiftly through the deal.
It’s been over a year since the last 3D printing company became publicly traded, and Sakuu could face a tough scenario ahead. 2022 witnessed the highest number of withdrawn SPAC deals on record, driving the De-SPAC Index down 71% in the last 12 months, according to Bloomberg. Despite these headwinds, could SPACs be rebounding? It could still be too early to speculate on this.
Back in 2020 and 2021, SPACs dominated and became one of the biggest trends of the Covid years. The 3D printing industry didn’t lag behind thanks to SPAC merger deals from some of the biggest names in the industry, like Markforged (NYSE: MKFG), Velo3D (NYSE: VLD), Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM), and Shapeways (NYSE: SHPW). Fast Radius was the last company to go public via a SPAC merger, and that was in February 2022. Afterward, the first blank check deal in the AM industry fell through when Atlantic Coastal Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: ACAH) – the company set to merge with Essentium to establish an IPO – backed out of its deal. To make things worse, less than a year after going public, Fast Radius filed for bankruptcy. It’s been a whirlwind financial year, and experts are still debating whether 2023 will make way for a recession or just a slowdown with a chance of economic growth.
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