Private Equity-backed Manufacturer ERA Jumps into 3D Printing with Acquisition of i3DMFG

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In a move that underscores the strategic importance of 3D printing technologies in traditional manufacturing sectors, i3DMFG has been acquired by ERA Industries. The acquisition took place on October 6, 2023, and integrates i3DMFG into a portfolio that already includes precision manufacturing specialists Gen El Mec (GEM).

With roots going back over 40 years, Chicago-based ERA Industries specializes in precision machining and assemblies for key sectors including aerospace, military, and medical industries. The company is known for its multi-axis capabilities and has been involved in the aerospace and medical contract manufacturing spaces. This acquisition follows the earlier inclusion of Oxford, CT-based GEM into ERA’s fold, adding even more depth to its expertise and talent pool.

i3DMFG, founded in 2013 in Redmond, Oregon, is a 3D printing service bureau focused on metal laser powder bed fusion. It operates 12 machines, including an EOS M300.4, and has applied its expertise to some interesting niche applications and materials. For instance, in addition to super nickel alloys, the company is printing with GRCOP-84 AND GRCOP-42, engineered for space applications. As a result, i3DMFG boasts such new space firms as Ursa Major among its customers.

i3DMFG will continue as a separate business unit within ERA, allowing the company to leverage the financial and operational strengths of ERA and GEM. Financial sponsor L Squared Capital Partners, which is behind ERA’s rapid expansion, has said that the company’s mergers and acquisition strategy will continue forward. In other words, we can expect further growth.

ERA Industries’ Elk Grove Village, Illinois headquarters.

L Squared is the latest private equity group to become involved in the area of digital manufacturing services. Others include CORE Industrial Partners and American Industrial Partners, both of whom have driven roll-up campaigns across North America to consolidate the fragmented service bureau market. MiddleGround Capital, too, has said that it is interested in pursuing a similar strategy. Meanwhile, Quickparts’ recent growth has been driven by Trilantic North America.

L Squared acquired ERA in June of this year as part of its larger strategy of investing $20-$100 million in companies with an EBITDA ranging from $3-$25 million. With a long-term growth strategy, the firm has over $550 million of committed capital. L Squared is run in large part by veterans of the private equity group, Chicago Growth Partners. In that way, the business shares a proximity to CORE, headquartered in Chicago, though L Squared is based in Newport Beach, California.

It’s interesting to see the consolidation of manufacturers occur in the U.S. Where once there were just a handful of private equity investors involved, it now seems like a great deal of competition is taking place to see who will rise to the top. At the same time, it’s worth wondering how this strategy will confront stalwart service bureaus like Materialise, Shapeways, and Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. It wouldn’t be surprising to see mergers and acquisitions take place between these rising consolidated businesses and the larger AM service bureaus.

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