3D printing start-ups Inkbit and Fabric8Labs have received significant backing to fund the roll-out of their novel inkjet and metal-based technologies respectively.
While Fabric8Labs has raised $19.3 million, enabling it to commercialize its patented 3D printing process and better address the RF, semiconductor and electronics markets, Inkbit has attracted $30 million worth of funding, which it intends to use as a means of ramping-up the production of its new Vista 3D printer, and financing its expansion into the APAC and EMEA regions.
“Inkbit is currently experiencing significant growth and we are excited to have the opportunity to continue to build our talented team and scale the company to meet customer demand,” said Davide Marini, CEO of Inkbit. “The opportunities for AM are growing as adoption of 3D printing for full-scale production increases.”
“We look forward to using our raised capital to continue evolving and innovating within this dynamic industry.”
Backing ‘Vision-Control’ AM
Prior to being spun-out from MIT back in 2017, Marini developed a new multi-material 3D printer with his fellow co-founders, that was designed to have “eyes and a brain.” Built to overcome epoxy printing failures, the firms’ initial ‘Snapper’ system was its first to feature Vision-Controlled Jetting technology, in which printheads effectively self-calibrate to deposit up to ten materials at once.
Since then, the company has gained investment worth $12 million via a funding round led by DSM Venturing and Stratasys, as well as Ocado, 3M and Saint-Gobain, before launching its first commercial system: the Inkbit Vista. Again featuring the firm’s vision-based feedback system, the Vista is aimed more towards end-use manufacturers, operating within the robotics, dental and automotive industries.
Inkbit’s technology has also found significant defense applications, and the company was awarded an SBIR contract by the U.S. Air Force in March 2021. Worth a reported $1.7 million, the contract has not only allowed the firm to improve the output of its 3D printers, but seen it build three systems for deployment at Air Force bases across the country.
With its latest round of financing, which takes its total raised up to $45 million, Inkbit now aims to scale its Vista production and grow its commercial team to facilitate its expansion into new markets. The investment itself was led by tech VC firm Phoenix Venture Partners (PVP), and its Managing General Partner John Chen has hailed the mass-production potential of Inkbit’s technology moving forwards.
“As the leading investor in materials science enabled technologies, PVP sees the technology Inkbit has commercialized as a total game changer to the AM industry because it solves the key bottlenecks preventing 3D printing from being adopted for mass manufacturing,” said Chen. “We are pleased to help Inkbit in its scale-up phase and welcome it as the newest member of the PVP portfolio.”
Fabric8Labs’ electronic ambitions
San Diego-based Fabric8Labs has also raised funding to back the launch of its own patented 3D printing technology, which reportedly enables the rapid fabrication of metal parts at an ‘atomic level.’ Consequently, resulting components are said to feature enhanced resolution and material properties compared to conventionally-printed parts, without the need for any time-consuming post-processing.
Additionally, given that the firm’s system operates at near-room temperature, it consumes less power than legacy machines, while its compatibility with fully-recyclable metal feedstock potentially makes it more eco-friendly as well.
Using the $19.3 million investment provided by Lam Capital, TDK Ventures, SE Ventures, imec.xpand, Stanley Ventures and Mark Cuban, Fabric8Labs now aims to expedite the roll-out of its technology. The firm has identified specific opportunities for its proprietary process within the medical and electronics sectors, but it also anticipates being able to “create new applications across multiple verticals.”
In future, the company says that its technology has the potential to address the high cost of ownership, material properties and post-processing issues which prevent clients from adopting 3D printing in the first place, and that its currently working with key partners to demonstrate its efficacy within “lucrative high-volume production” applications.
“We are very optimistic about Fabric8Labs’ potential across a range of energy and industrial applications,” added Grant Allen, General Partner at long-term backer SE Ventures. “From thermal management to fine-featured electrical connectors, and spanning data centers, e-mobility, and other power products, we have just started to scratch the surface of Fabric8Labs’ technology use cases.”
AM: bucking the COVID trend?
Despite the hostile economic climate caused by the pandemic over the last 18 months, investors have continued to show faith in the potential of 3D printing firms, investing heavily in their future growth. Earlier this month, for instance, Physna raised $56 million towards the development of its deep learning-based ’Thangs’ geometric search engine.
Special Purpose Acquisition Companies have also shown considerable interest in merging with 3D printing-related businesses, and combinations worth some $15 billion have now been agreed. Such deals have seen the likes of Desktop Metal attract significant funding to finance its ongoing growth, and the firm’s merger last year allowed it to raise around $580 million.
This influx of investment has caused the industry to undergo a high degree of consolidation in recent months, with larger firms beginning to acquire their competitors as a means of expanding their offerings. While Desktop Metal has bought up EnvisionTEC, Adaptive3D, Aerosint and Beacon Bio so far this year, in electronics, Nano Dimension has also started to spend its $1.5 billion warchest.
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Featured image shows an Inkbit Vista manufacturing facility. Photo via Inkbit.