Singapore has come to fully embrace the 3D printing industry with universities developing entire AM research centers and a burgeoning grassroot movement of Makers initiating their own 3D printing hubs. Though we’ve seen a number of mergers and acquisitions between large 3D printing companies in the West, the Maker movement in Singapore has demonstrated that strategic relationships between small organizations can provide for some powerful leverage in the 3D printing world.
At the grassroots level, it’s tough to make a splash in the increasingly crowded 3D printing pool. Perhaps it’s for that reason that two separate entities, Materialiseit and Simplifi3D decided to join forces. Materialiseit is a company that was started by Jose Maya, a Columbian artist turned 3D printing educator, that educates young and old alike on how to use the new technology. Jose was teaching his courses at a number of different venues, including primary schools and museums, helping students turn their ideas into 3D models that could then be brought into the physical world with 3D printing. Elsewhere on the island State, Simplifi3D had established itself as a brick-n-mortar 3D printer store, providing the usual services of printing, consulting, 3D scanning and workshops. It would only make sense that Materialiseit would integrate with Simplifi3D, providing a symbiotic relationship that could help both companies grow.
Now, the two companies are housed under the same roof where Simplifi3D benefits from Jose’s expertise and Jose has a base for his operations. The combined organization offers a variety of novel 3D printing workshops that range from 3D printed chocolate moulds to 3D printing legos and toys. They also hold Portabee workshops for students to assemble their Portabee 3D printers. To me, this relationship is an example of the sorts of non-hierarchical partnerships we’ll see more and more of in the days to come.
There was an opinion espoused by some folks at the Additive/Aerospace Summit that it’s natural for larger corporations to absorb smaller ones. I agree that, in a world of 7 billion people and counting, partnerships are necessary to manage the whole unwieldy thing. What I disagree with is the nature of those partnerships. Certainly, large organizations will be around for a long time, but it’s not always necessary for them to consume smaller organizations. In fact, sometimes being big can be a bad thing and lead to mismanagement and a lack of oversight. At the same time, smaller organizations lack the might necessary to keep up with the corporate Goliaths. Non-hierarchical strategic partnerships could give smaller organizations the power to compete in the market and prevent them from becoming too big for their britches. To me, this may be the natural progression of societal organization, loosely connected and semi-independent confederations over monopolizing corporations. And, as I mentioned in my opinion piece on NAMII/America Makes, a confederation of grassroots Maker organizations could, potentially, possess the clout to match the Goliaths of the world.