"The real benefit is adding scale, which allows for further investment in R&D and marketing and a continued investment in different opportunities. There's a tremendous amount of potential" in the 3D printer space, "but what you have is a bunch of companies that aren't that big," he said. "What the acquisition shows is the expansion of demand for 3D printing beyond the engineer putting two pieces of plastic together at their desk."
3D Systems, in particular, has been aggressively courting what Reichental calls the consumer 3D printer ecosystem. The many acquisitions meant to shore up this segment of its product line include the 3D printer manufacturers Bits From Bytes and BotMill, in addition to 3D content firms like Alibre, a provider of low-end CAD tools.
Both Kawola and Reichental also touted the significance of the expanded reseller channel, which would allow more than 300 dealers to sell both product lines.
Once this acquisition is comfortably under its belt -- it's expected to clear regulatory hurdles and close by the end of 2011 or early 2012 -- 3D Systems will hunker down and focus on turning all of its new assets into customer value.
"Over the past two years, we honed our acquisition integration performance and delivered significant growth and value" from the businesses it has acquired, Reichental said in a press release. "Given the importance of this acquisition, we decided to temporarily suspend the majority of our ongoing acquisition activities and focus exclusively on delivering the full benefit of the available customer and shareholder value."
Nice story, Beth. You note that 3D Systems is on a buying spree. Are we seeing widespread consolidation in this market, or is this unique to 3D Systems? Also, where does this leave competition in this market?
Rob: There aren't a whole lot of major players in this segment. The bigs one are Stratasys, Objet, 3D Systems, EOS, and Z Corp, that I know of, and that's straddling both the high-end rapid prototyping sector of the market and the lower end office systems.
I don't think we can say that it's reached a level of consolidation, but 3D Systems, in particular, has been on a buying spree, snapping up niche technologies and smaller vendors. This deal is a pretty big one in this space and from what the players and pundits say, it's all about the company trying to create some scale to grow to the next level. Very interesting, to say the least!
Wow, that's big news in this market. Thanks, Beth, for a very clear analysis. It will be interesting to see what happens in the higher end of the industry I've been writing about (to be covered in a December feature), i.e., the engineering-oriented, low-volume manufacturing area. Similar forces may be at work, and certainly there are similar drivers in terms of size and resources.
What happens when 3D printing becomes commoditized? Aren't we almost at that point already, in which case consolidating around that technology per se wouldn't seem to be a sustainable strategy. Rather, one would have to broaden (or maybe deepen)?
I don't think we're at the commodization stage yet. I think there is tons of interest and the technologies are really coming together, but to take it to the next step, these companies need more R&D dollars, better reseller channels, and stronger alliances with software vendors like the CAD guys. That's what this particular acquisition is all about. To your point, Alex, the acquisition expands their market sectors, grows their reseller channels, and broadens their product line with new capabilities, particularly around color.
23 acquisitions in 2 years? Boy oh boy, those early adopters who saw their technical support consumed in this manner must have been rather nervous. To have your careful research be bought out, and the model you pick dropped in product-line consolidation would be disappointing to say the least.
A company may be trying to grow itself to the next level, but that rate is bound to alienate customers.
@TJ: I totally agree that consolidation at this rate can be alarming, especially to companies having coughed up big bucks for printers. But most of those acquisitions weren't on the scale of this most recent Z Corp purchase. They were much smaller--many more about picking up key technologies rather than adding new models to a printer line. And truthfully, to date, there has been little overlap between any of the product lines of all the acquired companies.
That said, you never know what changes an acquisition can bring, so I guess only time will tell.
Aside from more R&D dollars, better reseller channels, and stronger alliances with software vendors, I suspect the consolidations can also give vendors access to what's become a very wide range of available materials for the somewhat less wide range of available processes. So acquiring key technologies--manufacturing processes and materials--seems like it would also be a main driver.
With that many acquistions, I would guess some of the deals were made to grab marketshare and new customers. In those cases, the deal could be a big gain for the customer that now has a more robust entity as their 3D printer vendor.
While 3D systems inc. essentially invented the SLA, and has been the pioneer in the rapid prototyping arena, I did not realize Z-corp was a major player.I would have put Objet as a solid number 2, even postured to overtake 3D system due to their superior resolution alone. Those 2, (3D & Objet) are by far the best I’ve used. Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve EVER used a Z-corp printer.It sure will be interesting to see if the new merger places them solidly in the market in front of Objet for good.
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