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Engineering Materials
Slideshow: Proto Labs Buys 3D Printing Service Bureau
5/13/2014

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FineLine Prototyping, just acquired by Proto Labs, is known for high-quality, precision, rapid prototype parts, including metals. 
  (Source: FineLine Prototyping)
FineLine Prototyping, just acquired by Proto Labs, is known for high-quality, precision, rapid prototype parts, including metals.
(Source: FineLine Prototyping)

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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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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   5/14/2014 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).



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.

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