Blackstone weighs up U.S. flotation of 3D printed battery division

Swiss mining and investment company Blackstone Resources (BLS) has announced that it’s considering listing its Blackstone Technology division on the U.S. stock exchange. 

While details about the operations of its subsidiary remain thin on the ground, the firm says that it’s developing a 3D printing technology that’s capable of producing high energy-density lithium-ion batteries. As Blackstone Technology prepares to enter serial cell production, its parent company is now weighing up listing it in the U.S, to harness investor interest there and raise capital to fund its future expansion. 

Blackstone Technology’s CEO Holger Gritzka claimed last year that the firm had developed a battery 3D printing process which “paves the way for the mass production of solid-state battery cells,” in a way that could open opportunities for the technology in “major markets” such as the automotive and marine industries, as well as helping build 5G wireless networks. 

Ambiguous battery 3D printing

Liquid electrolyte battery production lines, according to Blackstone, are only capable of producing one cell type at a time, making them energy-intensive and expensive. To get around this, the firm says that it has developed an approach which takes advantage of 3D printing’s flexibility, to create integrated batteries and housings in a single step, that last 20% longer than conventional devices to boot. 

Given that Blackstone’s batteries are reportedly based on water-based binders rather than flammable liquid electrolytes, it also claims that they’re “completely free of pollutants.” Since July 2020, the company has announced a string of ‘milestones’ in the R&D of its proprietary technology, culminating in its recent reveal that it’s “now ready to go into production.”

However, the specifics behind Blackstone’s ‘Thick Layer Technology’ remain shrouded in mystery. When contacted repeatedly by 3D Printing Industry for comment, the company was unable to clarify whether its technology is laser or binder jet-based, only describing it as a “fast 3D screen printing process,” before failing to elaborate on its comments any further. 

As a result, it’s difficult to assess the merits of Blackstone’s claims about its technology, and this in turn, raises questions about the firm’s potential U.S. offering. In the past, some firms have sought to take advantage of stock market trends to turn a quick profit, thus given the level of interest surrounding 3D printing IPOs and EV batteries, Blackstone’s refusal to share casts doubt over its future intentions.

A 5x5 cm-squared pouch cell with luminous LED, 3D printed using Blackstone's mysterious technology.
A 5×5 cm-squared pouch cell with luminous LED, 3D printed using Blackstone’s mysterious technology. Image via Business Wire.

Blackstone’s proposed U.S. IPO 

Currently, Blackstone Resources is itself listed on the Swiss SIX exchange, where it says that it has “enjoyed good liquidity” and “healthy trading volumes.” In reality, despite the firm’s claims of having “strong support” from the Swiss market, its stock has slowly declined since peaking in January 2021, falling steadily from 5.90 Swiss francs to 3.84 since then. 

For its part, Blackstone Technology says that its technology has “passed a series of major milestones” over the last 18 months which “haven’t been reflected” in the share value of its parent company, including the opening of its battery manufacturing facility in Saxony, Germany and the successful testing of its technology in February 2021.

Having now established the infrastructure to enter mass production, Blackstone Resources says that it’s planning to float its subsidiary on the U.S. stock exchange. While the firm hasn’t yet decided whether this will take the form of a traditional IPO, or if it’ll take advantage of 3D printing’s SPAC merger trend, it maintains that the move will attract investors “that firmly support its ambitious expansion plans.”

According to Blackstone, it’s already talking to “large private equity firms and investment banks” about how best to conduct its IPO, but considering battery firms like QuantumScape, FREYR and Solid Power have raised capital via similar means in the past, it believes that it now holds an advantage, given that they intend to enter production from 2023-2025, while it’s targeting a full launch in September 2021. 

Printed batteries on the horizon? 

While Blackstone has been reluctant to detail the technology behind its upcoming batteries, several reputable 3D printing companies have also identified a market for the technology in the production of electric vehicles (EVs). Just last month, the Sakuu Corporation unveiled an EV battery 3D printer that’s designed to yield cells with much higher charge levels than conventional batteries.

UK-based Photocentric, meanwhile, launched an entirely new division in September 2020 that’s dedicated to the R&D of eco-friendly 3D printed electric batteries. Ultimately, the company aims to develop fast-charging cells with an increased power density that have potential applications within drones, delivery robots and electric vehicles. 

Elsewhere, to help find the optimal source material for battery production, 6K Energy has opened a new facility that’s dedicated to identifying sustainable energy storage alternatives. So far, the company has committed to investing $25 million in its Center of Excellence, as it seeks to address the EV, grid storage and consumer goods sectors. 

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Featured image shows a 5×5 cm-squared pouch cell with luminous LED, 3D printed using Blackstone’s mysterious technology. Image via Business Wire.