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Slideshow: Proto Labs Buys 3D Printing Service Bureau

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naperlou
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great business decision
naperlou   5/13/2014 11:48:56 AM
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Ann, this is a great move by Proto Labs.  I have been following them for a while, and their injection molded small lot processes are very good.  It seems that they have decided that their opportunity is rapid prototyping and small lot parts.  3D printing is just another tool in their arsenal.  I expect that they will be able to offer good engineering and manufacturability advice for 3D as well as their current technologies.  This is definately a plus for customers.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/13/2014 12:01:59 PM
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Thanks, Lou, well said. Proto Labs has been focused on rapid prototyping and small lot parts for quite awhile. I think this acquisition lets them retain business from existing customers that would otherwise go elsewhere, when 3D printing can be seen as an integral part--just another step--of what they're already doing.



Cadman-LT
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Re: great business decision
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 3:36:00 PM
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It's just logical is it not? I mean have a proto printed and if it works out have the same company make the final design. I don't know why this isn't just the way it should be done. Makes sense to me.

Cadman-LT
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Re: great business decision
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 3:39:36 PM
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Everyday you hear about this company or that company buying other ones. If I already had a CNC shop I would have just expanded my horizons and bought some 3D printers, hired a guy that knows them, and done. I wouldn't have bought a whole comapny for it.

Cadman-LT
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Re: great business decision
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 3:44:24 PM
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I would think you already have the CAD guys doing 3D models and everything in place. You don't need to acquire a new company...you have what you need....just missing some printers and some guys to run them.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/13/2014 3:41:43 PM
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Cadman-LT, I agree. But that's easy to say as a user with a 50,000-foot perspective. Being inside a successful business, there are a host of things to think about before making a decision like this. In any case, there's a lot of acquisitions like this going on and I suspect we'll be seeing more.

Cadman-LT
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Re: great business decision
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 3:46:57 PM
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50,000 foot perspective? Never heard that one before. I can see from a big company doing this, but I could do it for a lot less.....lol

Cadman-LT
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Re: great business decision
Cadman-LT   5/13/2014 3:50:04 PM
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This doesn't really apply, but think about Google or Facebook....they have all the money in the world....they just buy every company that has an idea. No competition left.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/14/2014 12:20:23 PM
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Cadman-LT as you point out, buying outside expertise requires a lot of cash. But even if you are Google or Facebook or 3D Systems, it also requires correct business strategy, correctly executed on several fronts.



Elizabeth M
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Re: great business decision
Elizabeth M   5/14/2014 6:28:48 AM
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It's interesting when consolidation begins in any industry; it's sort of a sign that the industry is evolving from early stages to maturation, I think. This seems like a good decision and reminds me of when technology companies began adding services to their portfolio to become more well-rounded. Indeed, less competition means less options for customers, so there is always a fear that people won't get top service because there's no one to pushing a company to strive for more. But I think it's too early to say this will happen here.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/14/2014 12:33:30 PM
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I agree, Liz--that's certainly a traditional, and well-proven, interpretation of consolidation in an industry in its early stages, especially one based on a truly disruptive technology like 3D printing. There are some other acquisitions that have occurred recently in this space, as well. (Consolidation in later stages often indicates a downhill slope toward the end of an industry's life, when demand is shrinking.)
BTW, one of the most interesting business books I ever read was by the guy who invented the term "disruptive technology." It's "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen (1997).



Trenth
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Re: great business decision
Trenth   5/14/2014 6:40:00 PM
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Time will tell.   3d printing is another old business model destroying disruptive technology.   It's distributed super low cost manufacturing.  

Stratasys deserve a lot of credit for making it a practical tech, but now, they are trying to keep it a high priced elite tech, buying up little companies that might threaten that model like makerbot, and service bureaus to keep a monopoly on the business.  Ultimately that will fail, but it may buy them another decade. Protolabs is giving them an early run for their money and may drive price down faster.

Our company has a 35k$ Stratasys system, mostly it's been a great investment, though our Stratasys tech took a long time to get it calibrated right.  We also recently bought a makerbot, the first one with open source, and it's rather impressive, but much more difficult to use in production.   





Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/15/2014 2:46:16 PM
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Trenth, thanks for your comments. It's always good to hear from people using the products we write about. I think what will drive prices down is more machines, i.e., competition, and an open materials market.

Elizabeth M
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Re: great business decision
Elizabeth M   5/15/2014 3:21:29 AM
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It's really interesting to see how markets follow similar paths, Ann, especially with disruptive technologies that everyone wants a piece of. I will have to check out that book, it sounds really interesting.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/15/2014 2:46:52 PM
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Liz, with the exception of silicon chips, and some things made with them, many industries follow similar paths assuming other things are equal. I find the history of technology especially interesting. That book intrigued me partly because of what he says, but also because the products he did his classic analysis on, hard drives, were ones I had covered as a reporter during the time of his analysis, just as new tech was disrupting the market.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: great business decision
Cabe Atwell   5/17/2014 3:30:21 AM
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Seems like a great move for Proto Labs, which will now have everything they need under one roof.

Elizabeth M
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Re: great business decision
Elizabeth M   5/19/2014 5:10:44 AM
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Ah, yes, I covered tech, too, Ann, and saw a lot of market consolidation in the time I was writing about it. I remember writing about all the software (middleware) being used to run the Web and how it used to be sold separately by different vendors but more and more became part of a larger platform offered by a big company. Some consolidation is inevitable in nearly all markets, I think.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: great business decision
Ann R. Thryft   5/21/2014 12:48:44 PM
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OMG, Liz, you covered standalone middleware? Wasn't that a weird business?

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