Award winning 3D printer OEM Stratasys and DSM Venturing, the venture capital arm of Royal DSM, have led a $12 million funding round for Massachusetts-based startup Inkbit. Founded in 2017 as a spinout of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, Inkbit has developed a multimaterial inkjet 3D printer. In addition to Stratasys and DSM Venturing, the round saw the participation of online grocery retailer Ocado, multinational science-technology and consumer goods company 3M and French multinational materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain.
“We are excited to partner with such an extraordinary team of industry-leading players and impressed by their entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovation,” says Davide Marini, Inkbit cofounder and CEO. With the support of its latest investors, the company is now aiming to industrialize its technology, expanding material availability and installing the first units for customers.
“The composition of this syndicate was chosen to maximize the speed of development and commercialization of our platform, with each investor bringing to us their unique expertise in equipment manufacturing, high-performance materials and applications in robotics, medical devices and life sciences tools,” Marini adds.
“Our value proposition to customers is simple: we are adding a layer of machine vision and machine learning to material jetting, increasing its accuracy, reliability and enabling its use with production-grade materials.”
Multi-material 3D printing at volume
Termed “a 3D printer with eyes and brains,” Inkbit’s inkjet technology was developed to be able to learn the properties and predict the behavior of materials when 3D printing. Applying machine-vision and machine-learning, the idea is that method will be able to rapidly expand the range of materials that can be processed using 3D inkjet technology.
The Snapper is Inkbit’s first prototype 3D printer, and was acquired by partner Johnson and Johnson earlier this year. It has a build volume of 450 x 250 x 250mm, and 16 print heads, that can work with multiple materials in a single print. The vision for this system is that it can produce complete, end-use objects from a combination of rigid and flexible materials, incorporating pre-fabricated electric components and chips.
Initially tipped for release later this year, Inkbit is now planning a commercial release of its systems in 2021, promising customers “volume production capabilities, higher accuracy and automated quality assurance for every printed part.”
About the investors
With its own multi-material PolyJet technology, Stratasys has a clear symbiosis with Inkbit. “As pioneers of jetting-based additive manufacturing solutions, we are excited to help Inkbit bring their technology to the factory floor,” comments Ronen Lebi, VP of Corporate Development at Stratasys. “Vision-based feedback control and artificial intelligence will take additive manufacturing to a whole new level and will help to enable its widespread use for production,” Lebi adds. Following investment Guy Menchik, Stratasys VP of R&D will be joining the Inkbit board of directors, alongside Luda Kopeikina, Director of DSM Venturing and Paul Clarke, CTO at Ocado. Magnus René, former CEO at Arcam, and member of the Supervisory Board at SLM Solutions, will also be joining the Inkbit board.
For DSM Venturing’s part, the backing of Inkbit is one of several 3D printing investments the company has made this year. In February 2019, led a series A financing round for 3D printing resin supplier Adaptive3D. Subsequently, in October, the company helped post-processing specialist Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) in the closing of $5.2 million in funding. Pieter Wolters, Managing Director at DSM Venturing, concludes, “Materials always play a major role in industrializing breakthrough technologies and in additive manufacturing they become absolutely critical,
“We are delighted to have Inkbit in our investment portfolio and look forward to helping them develop the best materials for customers world-wide.”
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Featured image shows sample multi-material 3D prints from Inkbit. Photo via Inkbit