Industrial stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer manufacturer UnionTech has managed to secure $31 million in Series D funding, according to Pandaily sources.
Led by Dening Capital, the investment is also said to have been backed by Cash Capital, Yingke Private Equity, Dragonrise Capital and Evonik Venture Capital, amongst others. While it has yet to comment publicly on the raise, it’s likely that UnionTech will use its funding as a means of boosting its expansion, with the firm said to boast an average annual growth rate of over 50% for the last ten years.
UnionTech’s SLA printing portfolio
Since first entering the 3D printer market in 2000 as the ‘Shanghai Union Technology Corporation,’ UnionTech has rebranded itself and managed to significantly build out its operations. Having expanded into Europe and the United States in 2016, the company went on to launch its Pilot Commercial Series 3D printers at TCT 2017.
Composed of the Pilot 250 and Pilot 450, this range of SLA machines packed features that built on those of its existing RSPro models, and provided users with the ability to create parts in high quantities with excellent surface finishes. These systems also maintained the same easy-to-assemble platform as its predecessors, as well as their open material setup, leaving them open to third-party innovation.
One way that UnionTech has sought to encourage this culture of experimentation, is via its collaboration with what was DSM’s 3D printing division, and has now been bought by Covestro. As part of this partnership, the firm has become a reseller of several Somos, ProtoGen and ProtoTherm materials, with the impact, heat resistance and accuracy needed to open new applications to UnionTech adopters.
Most recently, the company’s technologies tend to have been applied in automotive settings, with C-TECH using 3D printing to improve its car customization efficiency, and Tongji University’s DIAN Racing team turning to SLA in a bid to build its DRe21 electric race car, and take part in Formula Student Electric China.
A growth-inspired investment?
Given that UnionTech isn’t traded publicly, and it hasn’t spoken on the record about its latest funding round, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where it plans to reinvest its newly-raised capital. However, pandaily has sourced figures from market analysis firm CONTEXT, that provide a glimpse into the reason why it has attracted so much investment.
According to Pandaily, this undisclosed report shows that UnionTech’s income has grown by an average of more than 50% over the last ten years, and this figure rises to over 80% when it comes to the growth of its acquired equipment.
Likewise, these numbers indicate that the company’s shipments were the highest in CONTEXT’s entire industrial-grade category during Q1 and Q2 2021, while they also show that China’s 3D printing industry has had an annual compound growth rate of 49% over the past five years, making those operating there highly attractive to potential investors.
That being said, not all of the investors behind UnionTech’s Series D funding round were new backers, and Evonik Venture Capital has been investing in the company since at least December 2020. At the time, the VC firm acquired a minority stake in UnionTech, stating that it was planning to launch a range of SLA materials, thus its investment would allow it to gain a better understanding of their end-use efficacy.
“We expect great technical advances in the field of stereolithography,” Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik’s Venture Capital unit said last year. “Evonik is preparing the launch of ready-to-use materials for this process. Our investment is therefore not only aimed at a profitable financial return, but above all at new insights in the use of this process.”
China’s emerging AM industry
While parts of the wider 3D printing sector are still recovering from the impact of COVID-19, there’s evidence to suggest that this is happening most quickly in China, where the technology’s adoption is really starting to take off.
Back in November 2020, CONTEXT published figures suggesting that the Chinese and desktop 3D printing markets were leading the global recovery from the pandemic. While the analysis firm’s report showed a 38% decline in the revenue of Western industrial 3D printer manufacturers between Q2 2019 and 2020, it found a 24% jump in Chinese shipments of similar systems from Q1 to Q2 2020.
What’s more, the recent sales performance of one the country’s leading 3D printer manufacturers, Farsoon Technologies, appears to suggest that this resurgence is ongoing. The company reported record-breaking revenue during November 2021, bringing in $15 million through the sale of more than 40 machines, leading it to announce an expansion of its capacity to cater for its growing demand.
Elsewhere, in desktop 3D printing, many leading Chinese firms aren’t traded publicly, thus it’s difficult to assess their commercial progress, but the likes of Creality continue to expand on their portfolios. This year alone, the firm has launched the HALOT-ONE, HALOT-SKY and HALOT-LITE systems, as well as its CR-SCAN 01 scanner, each built to offer design users premium features at an affordable price.
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Featured image shows a factory of UnionTech 3D printers. Image via UnionTech.