3D Printing News Digest

3D Printing Industry review of the year: January 2021

Click to see all articles in our 2021 3D Printing Industry Review of the Year series.

Fresh off the back of a turbulent 2020, January 2021 saw the first of what would turn into a year of significant 3D printing business moves, with the huge amounts of funding raised leading to considerable market consolidation. In other areas, like concrete 3D printing, the scalability of these technologies also made big strides forward during the month, as did research into novel eco-friendly materials. 

Read on for the standout developments in January, including those of Pyrogenesis, Formlabs, Desktop Metal, COBOD, WASP, Protolabs, Aectual, Nano Dimension, Massivit3D and more.

Using PostProcess' patented SVC process, PrintParts has been able to produce over one million COVID-19 testing swabs. Image via PostProcess.
Desktop Metal’s acquisition of EnvisionTEC has enabled it to better access the growing dental and medical 3D printing markets. Photo via PostProcess.

AM investment hits new heights

Over a matter of days in mid-January 2021, 3D printing shares worth some $912.5 million were made available or changed hands. First to make one of these mega-deals was 3D printer manufacturer Desktop Metal, which bought up EnvisionTEC for $300 million. The firm’s acquisition effectively enabled it to enter the DLP market, and expand further into the dental, jewelry and bio-fabrication industries. 

The next day, digital manufacturing provider Protolabs announced plans to shell out $280 million on the acquisition of 3D Hubs. Since completing the move, Protolabs has leveraged its new subsidiary’s network of partners and 3D printing capabilities to broaden its pricing and lead time options for customers, as well as renaming it to simply ‘Hubs.’

At around the same time, electronics 3D printer manufacturer Nano Dimension also revealed that it would be making a further $332.5 million worth of shares available to investors, via a registered direct offering. Once completed, the move saw the company take its total capital raised to $1 billion, funding it later deployed to buy DeepCube for $70 million and acquire microprinting specialist Nanofabrica.

Nano Dimension's DragonFly LDM 3D printing technology in action. Photo via Nano Dimension.
Nano Dimension’s DragonFly LDM 3D printing technology in action. Photo via Nano Dimension.

Kicking-off a year of IPOs 

Following Desktop Metal’s $580 million IPO alongside SPAC Trine Acquisition, several other 3D printing firms also opted to go public in 2021, with the aim of turning renewed interest in the technology into liquid capital. In early January, powder producer Pyrogenesis became the first such firm to weigh up an IPO, before it went on to submit a formal application to list its shares on the NASDAQ exchange. 

At the time, the company’s CEO P. Peter Pascali said he believed Pyrogenesis was “entering a heightened growth phase,” thus he expected the move to “increase awareness of its offerings, both within the financial community and amongst potential clients.” Pascali’s predictions were somewhat validated by Pyrogenesis’ Q4 earnings results at the end of the month, in which it projected up to 367% growth

Over in Israel, meanwhile, large-format 3D printing firm Massivit3D was planning to go public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) as well. When it did eventually conduct its IPO in March 2021, the company was able to raise $50 million in funding through the move, leading its CEO Erez Zimerman to declare that it “testified to the market’s substantial evaluation for the solution that Massivit3D provides.”

The Fuse 1's smaller footprint lends itself to workshop integration. Photo via Formlabs.
The Fuse 1’s smaller footprint is said to lend itself to workshop integration. Photo via Formlabs.

Formlabs enters the SLS arena 

Amid all the cash changing hands in the 3D printing industry during January, Formlabs was also able to carry out one of the year’s most significant system launches. Previously an SLA 3D printer manufacturer, the firm’s new Fuse 1 machine allowed it to enter the industrial SLS market for the first time, alongside its Fuse Sift unit and proprietary Nylon material. 

Designed to address the needs of those engineers, designers, and manufacturers seeking a high-quality functional prototyping or short-run production tool, the benchtop system features a modular 165 x 165 x 300mm build chamber and powerful 10W fiber laser, which according to the firm’s CEO Max Lobovsky, make it an attractive low-cost SLS entry point. 

“The Form 1 redefined SLA printing for the AM industry ten years ago, and now the Fuse 1 is bringing the same reliability and accessibility standard that Formlabs customers expect,” Lobovsky said at the time. “SLS 3D printing shouldn’t be solely for those with big budgets, it needs to be accessible so all companies can benefit from the design freedom and high productivity it provides.”

India's first 3D printed two-storey building. Photo via COBOD.
India’s first 3D printed two-storey building. Photo via COBOD.

Concrete 3D printing ramps up 

Over in the construction sector, January saw 3D printing use scaled to new heights, with Larsen & Toubro Construction leveraging it to erect India’s first two-storey building. Built from locally-sourced materials with a large-format COBOD system, the robust structure featured vertical reinforcement bars as well as welded mesh distributors, and ultimately proved compliant with the country’s building codes. 

That month, Italian 3D printer manufacturer WASP also announced it had completed the build of its unique ‘TECLA’ organic house. Designed by Mario Cucinella Architects, the sustainable dome-shaped structure was constructed from all-natural feedstock, and built as a proof-of-concept and blueprint for a newly-sustainable housing model. 

Elsewhere, Aectual revealed that it would be taking a different approach to additive manufactured architecture, by launching its own online 3D printing service. Unveiled at CES 2021, the beta platform initially offered users the chance to order custom household design elements, such as panelling, fixtures or flooring made from eco-friendly materials. 

At launch, Aectual’s Co-founder Hedwig Heinsman, said the platform would “enable world-class architects, designers and brands to realize their own bespoke designs on-demand, at any scale, in any building and to create truly unique 100% sustainable products, without being slowed down by extensive prototyping.”

Aectual's XL 3D printer.
Aectual says that its XL system (pictured) produces less waste than conventional customized construction processes. Photo via Aectual.

Sustainable production progresses 

In similarly sustainability-related news, polymer manufacturer INEOS Styrolution developed a styrenics-based 3D printing powder, with the potential to provide users with 67% energy savings compared to PA12. Created as part of its ‘PolySLS’ project, the firm said the material could go into mass-production, but this would depend on further testing, as well as product demand and its overall capacity. 

On the flipside, researchers at the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (UNIDEMI) also highlighted the lack of circularity that goes into creating such materials. Following an in-depth literary review, the team found that industrial waste is rarely re-used in 3D printing, yet doing so could net manufacturers both profitability and sustainability gains. 

“Plastic waste seems to be the material that’s often a point of interest in studies, and a few have identified possible avenues for having industrial symbiosis networks within the AM industry,” stated the researchers in their paper. “This could be more profitable and achieve a real positive impact on our planet.”

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Featured image shows the row of EnvisionOne 3D printers used by PrintParts to fabricate COVID-19 nasal testing swabs in NYC. Photo via PostProcess.