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Design Hardware & Software
3D Systems Buys Z Corp in Prototype Boost
11/29/2011

Z Corp's Zprinter line fills in the midrange price point and addresses the need for full color printing 
as part of 3D Systems' expanded lineup.
Z Corp's Zprinter line fills in the midrange price point and addresses the need for full color printing
as part of 3D Systems' expanded lineup.

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Rob Spiegel
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Widespread consolidation?
Rob Spiegel   11/29/2011 2:25:32 PM
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?

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Beth Stackpole   11/29/2011 2:34:19 PM
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!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Ann R. Thryft   11/29/2011 3:44:12 PM

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.


Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Alexander Wolfe   11/29/2011 4:04:54 PM
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)?

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Beth Stackpole   11/29/2011 4:19:32 PM
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.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
TJ McDermott   11/29/2011 9:59:04 PM
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.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Beth Stackpole   11/30/2011 7:38:36 AM
@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.

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Ann R. Thryft   11/30/2011 11:21:33 AM
NO RATINGS

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.

 


Rob Spiegel
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
Rob Spiegel   11/30/2011 2:16:40 PM
NO RATINGS
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.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Widespread consolidation?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   12/1/2011 12:37:55 AM
NO RATINGS

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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