Nikon wraps up €622M SLM Solutions takeover

Japanese optics and imaging multinational Nikon has completed its takeover of German metal 3D printer manufacturer SLM Solutions.

Initially agreed last year, the deal has seen Nikon acquire a 100% stake in SLM Solutions at a price of €20.00 per share, and an overall total of €622 million. According to Nikon’s CEO, Toshikazu Umatate, the move will help the two companies provide “holistic solutions at an accelerated pace to customers in a variety of industries around the world.”

“We are very pleased that our transaction has progressed successfully, and we are looking forward to partnering with SLM,” said Toshikazu Umatate, CEO of Nikon. “We value SLM’s capabilities in the metal additive manufacturing space and we look forward to enhancing and growing our digital manufacturing business, which we are confident will lead to a revolution in global mass production.”

An SLM Solutions showroom. Image via SLM Solutions.
An SLM Solutions showroom. Image via SLM Solutions.

SLM Solutions’ change in fortunes 

Over the last four years or so, SLM Solutions’ has gone from a business that saw its revenue decline 31.7% year-on-year in FY 2019, to one thriving off growing demand in the aerospace and automotive sectors. In fact, SLM Solutions’ Q3 2022 financials showed that last year its revenue performance was its strongest to date, despite ongoing supply chain challenges. 

So, how has the company turned things around so quickly? Since SLM Solutions CEO Sam O’Leary took the helm in January 2021, its sales have been buoyed by deals to supply aerospace stalwarts such as Rolls Royce and the US Air Force

The firm’s turnaround has also coincided with the launch of its NXG XII 600 and NXG XII 600E 3D printers, the former of which has been adopted by Divergent Technologies, builder of the 3D printed Czinger 21C hypercar. Now its takeover by Nikon has been wrapped up, O’Leary says he expects SLM Solutions’ customer base to grow even further, as it begins to tap into the markets of its parent company. 

“Together with Nikon, we will further strengthen our leading position in integrated metal additive manufacturing through consistently raising the bar in this innovation-centric environment,” said O’Leary. “We have demonstrated the relevance of our technology to every major industry, and with Nikon we are confident we will expand our customer base even further.”

“With its deep expertise in developing cutting-edge opto-electronic technology and precision equipment, Nikon is the perfect partner for SLM.”

The SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 3D printer. Image via SLM Solutions.
The SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 3D printer. Photo via SLM Solutions.

GE’s abandoned takeover bid  

Until Nikon’s buyout, SLM Solutions had traded independently since it was founded in 2006, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been the subject of takeover speculation before. Back in 2016, it was not Nikon but GE lining up an SLM Solutions takeover bid. At the time, GE Additive valued SLM Solutions at €38.00 per share or €900 million, significantly more than €20.00 per share it has now been sold for. 

It’s thought that GE made a move for SLM Solutions because its early 3D printed LEAP fuel nozzles, which have since become a poster child for aerospace 3D printing, were built on SLM systems by Morris Technologies, a firm it acquired in 2012. 

However, GE opted to walk away from its planned purchase when activist investor Elliott Advisors built up a 20% stake in the firm. Instead, as predicted by 3D Printing Industry, GE bought Concept Laser, in a move that has allowed it to vertically integrate, bringing its aerospace 3D printing activities in-house, while continuing to generate revenue from the sale of its acquisition’s powder bed fusion systems. 

After GE’s interest in SLM Solutions waned, the firm’s share price dipped back to its previous level. Elliot Advisors would go on to provide SLM Solutions with €13 million of capital during 2019. By contrast, having wrapped up its takeover, Nikon has now committed to providing a 10% capital increase to the company, a cash injection of around €45.4 million. 

Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies' AMBIT DED printhead. Image via Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies.
Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies’ AMBIT DED printhead. Image via Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies.

Nikon commits to metal 3D printing 

Nikon may be best known for its optical technology offering, but it has long held an interest in the 3D printing industry. The firm acquired optical instrument developer Metris in 2009, before striking up a collaboration with 3D Engineering Solutions in 2014, which saw the firms develop a new generation of metrology-grade CT scanners, capable of converting scans into 3D models and CAD files.

These scanners have since been deployed in the qualification of 3D printed hip implants for Orthic Balto, and in the development of Materialise’s Streamics software. However, Nikon changed gears in 2019 with the launch of its Next Generation Project, an initiative that has seen it target more high-growth businesses, particularly those involved in 3D printing. 

In April 2021, Nikon bought metal 3D printing bureau Morf3D, and this was followed up with a takeover bid for SLM Solutions in September 2022. SLM Solutions then invested in Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies and Optisys, in deals which have provided it with access to hybrid and electronics 3D printing technologies, and manufacturing capabilities that are said to be ‘well-aligned’ with its own. 

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Featured image shows an SLM Solutions showroom. Image via SLM Solutions.