3D Printing News Digest

3D Printing Industry Review of the Year: May 2023

Interested in reading more about the year’s biggest 3D printing news? You can access our full 3D Printing Industry Review of the Year series here.

May 2023’s highlights included 3D Printing Industry attending RAPID + TCT 2023, North America’s largest AM tradeshow showcasing innovative technologies.

M&A activities involving Nano Dimension, Stratasys, Desktop Metal, and 3D Systems intensified during May. Stratasys’ plans to acquire Desktop Metal for $1.8 billion were publicly disclosed. Following Stratasys’ rejection of what Nano Dimension called its “best and final” offer of $20.05 per share, Nano said it was preparing a special tender offer for at least 51% of Stratasys shares at $18 per share in April 2023. Nano made this offer after the Stratasys-Desktop Metal merger announcement in May 2023. Additionally, just days later, 3D Systems made an unsolicited bid to acquire Stratasys with a cash and stock combination.

Elsewhere, research, construction, and aerospace sectors were once again the highlights for the month.

Read on for more 3D printing news from May 2023 including Stratasys, Desktop Metal, Nano Dimension, 3D Systems, Nexa3D, Markforged, and more.

The lineup for the Additive Manufactring industry panel on day 3 of RAPID + TCT 2023. Photo by 3D Printing Industry
The lineup for the Additive Manufacturing industry panel on day 3 of RAPID + TCT 2023. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

Stratasys-Desktop Metal deal made official; Nano Dimension’s critical

The M&A activities of Nano Dimension, Stratasys, Desktop Metal, and 3D Systems continued to dominate headlines, and events ramped up with 3D Systems announcing a $1.33 billion bid to buy Stratasys.

After beginning private talks in early 2021, Stratasys and Desktop Metal publicly announced the proposed deal at $1.8 billion in May 2023 providing details about the merger. According to SEC filings, the initial approach was reversed with the Boston company setting out plans to acquire Stratasys in 2021, offering $60 per Stratasys share. Around that time Stratasys shares traded at $20.72 and would increase to $51.72 in February 2021. Stratasys board rejected the 2021 Desktop Metal offer, citing undervaluation and Stratasys shares returned to the $20 – $26 range until November 2021, almost reaching $35.

Returning to May 2023, Nano announced it’s latest offer for Stratasys seeking at least 51% of Stratasys shares at $18 per share. After thorough evaluation, Stratasys rejected this offer as it was not in the best interests of Stratasys and its shareholders and did not constitute a “Superior Proposal” under the terms of the Desktop Metal Merger agreement. 

A recurring feature that marked this spate of takeover activity as unusual, not just in the 3D printing industry, but in the corporate world was the relish with which Nano Dimension’s CEO took to public channels to denounce his rivals.

In addition to sharing his M&A insights on YouTube, Nano Dimension CEO, Yoav Stern, criticized the Stratasys-Desktop Metal merger in a conference call. He also revealed talks with Desktop Metal since November 2022. Stern deemed Desktop Metal’s $800 million valuation excessive, citing a negative 3% gross margin and alleging over $2 billion shareholder value destruction.

Stern labeled Desktop Metal, as a “SPAC refugee,” and denounced the merger as a “bail-out.” Stern contested the legality of Desktop Metal’s rights plan, urging its nullification in court. He advised Stratasys shareholders to reject the merger, highlighting Nano’s superior all-cash offer and questioning the financial viability and strategic fit of the Stratasys-Desktop Metal merger.

Following its plans with Stratasys, Desktop Metal announced a temporary shareholder rights plan, a common defence strategy against hostile takeovers. Indeed Stratasys adopted a poison pill plan in July 2022. This plan was to guard Desktop Metal from market accumulations and coercive tactics, ensuring equitable premiums for all shareholders. The shareholder rights plan was set to expire at the earlier of the completion of the Stratasys merger, scheduled for the end of 2023, or July 2024.

RAPID + TCT 2023: a show floor for novel offerings

May began with RAPID + TCT 2023 held in Chicago, showcasing key industry players introducing advancements in the 3D printing sector. Featuring 350 exhibitors and 200 speakers this tradeshow exhibited innovative technologies. Companies including Nexa3D, DMG Mori, Markforged, Axtra3D, and more unveiled their novel product offering.

Todd Grimm taking to the stage on day 3 of RAPID + TCT 2023. Photo by 3D Printing Industry
Todd Grimm taking to the stage on day 3 of RAPID + TCT 2023. Photo by 3D Printing Industry

For this 3-day event, Founder and President of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Todd Grimm, took to the main stage to give a run-through of enterprises present at the tradeshow. This event witnessed keynote speakers covering major themes like industrialization, sustainability, and reshoring, aligning with legislative initiatives. 

CEO of Czinger Motors, Kevin Czinger gave a keynote speech on Divergent Technologies‘ Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS) illustrating “true digital manufacturing” gaining traction in automotive and defense, with endorsements from Aston Martin and Mercedes AMG. “These are vehicles where we are going to be building hundreds and then tens of thousands of vehicles by 2025-2026 using digital manufacturing,” said Czinger.

Additionally, a keynote speech by Omar Mireles, an R&D Engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, highlighted AM applications in space, including topology-optimized components on the International Space Station (ISS). Industry leaders like HP emphasized automation with the Jet Fusion 3D Powder Handling Automation Solution, addressing high-volume production needs. 

Omar Mireles taking to the stage. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.
Omar Mireles taking to the stage. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

Apart from the keynotes being the focus for the initial two days, a panel discussion was held on the final day including AM industry leaders SME Director and CEO Robert Willig, Wohlers Associates, SAE VP of Programs Chris Ciuca, and Impossible Objects CCO Jeff DeGrange. The panel titled “AM Industry Outlook” discussed the opportunities and challenges within the Additive industry.

Willig highlighted industry growth from $2 billion in 2012 to $18 billion in 2023. Wohlers highlighted diverse applications, particularly in aerospace, medicine, and automotive sectors. DeGrange stressed growth driven by applications, emphasizing the pivotal role of electrical applications. Other points on education, collaboration, and the increasing role of AI were also discussed.

Shaping the future of medicine with 3D printed pills

In a significant development, scientists from Max Planck Institute for Informatics and University of California at Davis (UC Davis), developed a process for 3D printing pills proving effective controlled drug release. The method involves printing pills with specific shapes to determine dissolution speed in the body, offering precise drug delivery for patient-specific needs. 

Using an inverse design strategy, combining computational methods and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing, the researchers demonstrated its effectiveness. The innovation holds potential in personalized medicine, with applications extending to catalytic bodies and granular fertilizers.

3D printing paves the way for eco-friendly building

Real estate developer Kraus Gruppe announced plans to construct Europe’s largest 3D printed building in Heidelberg, Germany, commissioned by Heidelberg IT Management. The IT server hotel, constructed by PERI using COBOD‘s BOD2 3D printer, is said to be approximately 54m long, 11m wide, and 9m high. 

Made of 100% recycled concrete, it aimed to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% compared to traditional buildings. The project showcased 3D printing’s design freedom and speed, with completion expected in July 2023. 

A look inside the 3D printing process of LizzieSat satellite

Earlier in May, 3D printer manufacturer Markforged revealed a work-in-progress 3D printed LizzieSat satellite, developed in partnership with aerospace company Sidus Space. The satellite, aimed at a maximum weight of 100 kg, utilized Markforged’s flame-retardant Onyx FRA material for metal-like strength, weight reduction, and faster production. 

Sidus Space’s previous 3D printed prototypes in space remained intact and functional for a year. LizzieSat, set to launch on SpaceX Transporter-9, focuses on real-time geospatial intelligence with 3D printed components for faster, cost-effective fabrication, and adaptability to diverse launch vehicles and sites.

2023: 3D Printing Industry review of trends and news.

2022: 3D Printing Industry review of trends and news.

Read all the 3D Printing Industry coverage from Formnext 2023.

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Featured image shows the RAPID+TCT 2023 Day 2 show floor. Photo via 3D Printing Industry.