3D Systems launched another salvo in its aggressive mergers and acquisition strategy to plug holes in its burgeoning 3D design story, this time buying Rapidform, a provider of 3D scan-to-CAD and inspection tool software.
3D Systems, which has inked more than a dozen deals in the last couple of years, has mapped out a plan to create what it dubs "a seamless, digital scan, design, and print platform" for customers. In its latest deal, the company plunked down $35 million in cash for Rapidform, which is based in Seoul, South Korea. Company President and CEO Abe Reichental said in a press release that the "integration of the Rapidform proprietary products with 3D Systems' extensive portfolio will result in accelerated growth within the rapidly expanding 3D content-to-print space."
Rapidform's family of 3D scanning software includes quality inspection, reverse engineering, and 3D scan data processing tools. (Source: 3D Systems/Rapidform)
So where does Rapidform fit into the picture? Clearly, 3D Systems has an extensive portfolio of 3D printers, on both the high- and mid-range professional end with its own lineup of systems and via its acquisition of ZCorp. The company has built out a low-end 3D printer line aimed at consumers and the so-called DIY and maker market via its new Cube printer launched last January. On the content creation side, 3D Systems snapped up 3D CAD maker Alibre in addition to MyRobotNation, a site aimed at whetting the lay person's appetite for 3D printing by inviting anyone to design their own robot for 3D printing. There have also been a variety of smaller acquisitions fortifying 3D Systems with everything from on-demand custom parts services to technology around medical device and prosthesis design to a company that makes software that lets users upload photos to create printable 3D models.
So where does Rapidform fit in this pieced together technical landscape? Rapidform's XOR reverse engineering software, XOV inspection software, and XOS point cloud solution fill in the 3D scanning gaps in 3D Systems' ideation to production lifecycle value proposition, company officials said in the presentation explaining the Rapidform acquisition. For instance, during the research stage, XOR can be tapped to create 3D models of existing parts that have no 3D definition. During development, the same tool, in tandem with XOS, can be used for iterative prototyping to merge changes in physical parts back to original CAD designs. XOV comes in at the manufacturing stage to handle things like creating functional tooling more quickly and for doing inspection and ongoing quality control work.
3D Systems officials also said the acquisition expands the company's geographic coverage and presence in the Southeast Asia region.
@all... lol, thanks, especially to JimT - I now feel ancient, I too was a user of CADDS (CV) "back in the day" :)
The path of 3D Systems is one to watch for sure, also the plight of software companies acquired by hardware companies is tradionally not a pretty picture. At any rate, they are making what I percieve as the "mad dash" to be the king of the 3D hill, in much the same way that Autodesk acquired all of their technologies over the years and created a suite of products.
Should be a fun scrum to watch as all the players in both the hardware and software markets related to this industry segment begin to posture and move about, unveiling their designs.
Methinks 3D Systems is no where near done with it's acquisitions. Speculation indicates that they will likely move on a real hardware scanning product/vendor relatively soon to complete their scan to print picture. There really is no need to acquire a company like RapidForm if they are intent on sewing up photogrammetry meshes. RapidForm is geared more towards the precision scanning/engineering market when considering it is a pretty pricey piece of software and it's industry is "reverse-engineering".
Think I'll grab a bag of popcorn and watch this industry segment for the next 6 months - 3DS sure is stirring the pot!
Sounds to me like 3D-Scan-Man is a great resource on this topic. With all the recent acquisitions by 3D systems, I've lost track of what equipment is now under their control. Maybe an historical timeline, or a box-to-box "Org-Chart" would shed some light on their current corporate configuration.
BTW, I laughed out-load when I read the NURBS comment from 3dscanman - That acronym is one I haven't heard of in a very long time, since my days using CV-CADDS-4x, in the late 80's. It stands for Non-Uniform-Rational Basis-Splines - NURBS. Wikipedia has a great page on it, FYI.
@3dsscanman: Excellent summary of a market that's been around for a bit, but definitely flown under the radar screen for many engineers and smaller organizations. I agree that this 3D Systems acquisition will shine the spotlight on the technology and give it some good exposure. With companies like Autodesk also doing work on point cloud technology in the cloud and with the price of the printers/scanners going down, I think this is going to be a key and on-going part of the 3D printing story, both on a professional and consumer level.
Ann, there are several players in the "RE" space, converting point clouds (scans) to meshes for modeling and 3D printing (STL/FDM/et al) has been around for a very long time now - since the early 90's. The advent of more robust scanning devices led to the proliferation of software vendors that specialize in this industry segment. As these vendors have arrived, the capabilities of these softwares has also matriculated to include NURBS (freeform) and CAD (analytical) modeling - all of which can be utilized in a number of downstream applications that include digital inspection, CAD, CAM and CAE (FEA, CFD, et al).
Other software that immediately comes to mind besides RapidForm is Polyworks and Geomagic. These companies have been at these processes for quite some time now. Like 3D printing... which has been around for a very long time (decades), with the acquisition of RapidForm, 3D Systems is floating the boat of this industry as well, due to their visibility and agressive media position, to the otherwise unkowingly public.
Beth, you said "XOR can be tapped to create 3D models of existing parts that have no 3D definition." In other words, sort of like reverse engineering a CAD drawing from the existing part? If so, wow, I didn't know that could be done. Sounds like an amazing ability of a tool--are there others that do this?
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