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Formlabs raises $150M bringing value to $2BN but “taking its time” on IPO

3D printer manufacturer Formlabs has raised $150 million in a Series E funding round led by Tokyo-based VC firm SoftBank Investment Advisers’ Vision Fund 2

According to Formlabs, the additional funding effectively doubles its valuation to $2 billion, and enables it to expand its workforce, build on its SLA and SLS portfolio and expedite its product R&D. However, despite the company’s increase in value, its CEO Max Lobovsky has spoken to BizJournals making it clear that he’s in no rush to follow 3D printing’s $13 billion trend towards merging with SPACs and going public.

“We’re larger in revenue than all those SPAC 3D printing companies combined, so we’re certainly large enough and mature enough to do something like that,” said Lobovsky. “That being said, when I look at the real big, successful, long-term sustainable public tech companies that we want to be, they are in entirely another tier in terms of being much more predictable and profitable.” 

“We’d rather take our time and be really ready to be an excellent public company, to be large enough to be a successful public company, and then go public at that point,” he added. 

AMRC's printfarm of 12 Formlabs Form 2 3D printers. Photo via AMRC.
Formlabs plans to use its additional funding to invest in expanding both its team and product portfolio. Photo via AMRC.

Formlabs funds future expansion

Led by its flagship SLA 3D printers, Formlabs boasts a broad portfolio of desktop systems and materials, which address the needs of clients ranging from the medical sector to the jewelry industry. Leveraging the firm’s machines, adopters have created more than 85 million components, and the company continues to launch new products to improve users’ experiences and widen its customer base. 

In the last year alone, Formlabs has released multiple different material iterations as a means of better supporting its core dental and engineering clientele. Having initially launched six new materials in August, the company went on to introduce its Rigid 10K and Draft Resins in October, before releasing its Permanent Crown Resin and Soft Tissue Starter Pack at the end of the year. 

Formlabs has also invested heavily in its system portfolio recently, launching its 3L and 3BL 3D printers in September 2020 to provide clients with larger-format and bio-resin compatible options, as well as its first-ever SLS machine earlier this year in the shape of the Fuse 1, and its accompanying Fuse Sift powder removal system.

Following SoftBank’s $150 million investment, Formlabs now aims to continue building on its offering in a way that “enables greater mass production and customization,” and ultimately allows its clients to cut their costs while producing end-use quality parts at scale. 

“We’re incredibly excited to work with SoftBank Vision Fund 2 to help build Formlabs’ next chapter and continue delivering the industry’s most accessible 3D printing technology,” said Formlabs Co-founder Natan Linder. “This round helps us continue to build the industry’s most sustainable business and maintain our innovation pace while preparing the company for the next stage of growth.”

Formlabs' new resin products could enable its clients to produce more accurate and durable implants for patients. Image via Formlabs.
Formlabs has added a number of new dental products to its range over the last year. Image via Formlabs.

SoftBank’s $150m investment

Formlabs intends to use SoftBank’s investment, which takes its total funding raised to $250 million, to not only build on its product portfolio, but grow its team in order meet the demands of what Lobovsky describes as a 3D printing “renaissance.” The firm anticipates that the industry will reach a value of $51.7 billion by 2026, thus it’s now seeking to expand on both its offering and manufacturing capacity.  

The funding round marks the first time that SoftBank has invested in Formlabs, but having previously backed Uber Technologies and Nvidia, the firm has a long history of helping scale technology companies. As part of the deal, SoftBank’s Senior Managing Partner Deep Nishar and Investment Partner Kirthiga Reddy are also set to join Formlabs’ board, with the latter taking on an observational role. 

“Through its high-performance printers, materials and software, Formlabs is pushing the development of 3D printing technology forward and enabling the era of mass production and mass customization,” said Nishar. “We are excited to partner with Max and the Formlabs team to support their ambition to enable anyone to make anything.”

“We believe the 3D printing industry is currently standing at the precipice of unprecedented growth and is transforming the way products are made.”

Steering clear of a SPAC IPO 

By the end of the year, 3D printing companies will have raised around $2.4 billion in funding via mergers with SPACs. Although Desktop Metal’s combination with Trine Acquisition is the only one of these deals to have been finalized, VELO3D, Rocket Lab, Markforged, Bright Machines and Redwire each have similar agreements in place to go public. 

Despite this emerging trend, and the potential investment Formlabs stands to raise by becoming publicly listed, Lobovsky has reportedly ruled out going public in this way. The company is said to have discussed a SPAC merger at board level, with the involvement of its current investors, but concluded that it needs to further diversify its portfolio before any IPO as a means of making its business more predictable. 

Labovsky added that the type of move, whether it be a SPAC merger, direct listing or traditional IPO, is a “secondary kind of tactical consideration” when it comes to raising capital, saying that “being a good public company” is more important, and quipping “What’s the right timing for that? We’ve decided, not today.”

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Featured image shows AMRC’s printfarm of 12 Formlabs Form 2 3D printers. Photo via AMRC.

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