Today Formlabs announced a huge USD$35M investment round, which should enable some very interesting things to occur.
The Series B investment follows several prior investment rounds, including a USD$1.8M initial investment, USD$2.8M in their first Kickstarter campaign, and a USD$19M Series A investment. Today’s Series B gives the company a total of USD$58.6M, surely one of the largest ever for a desktop 3D printer company.
While the public cannot know for certain, I suspect this investment round ends up valuing the company at a level exceeding USD$100M. If Formlabs wasn’t considered in the “big leagues” of 3D printing before, it certainly is now.
But such a lofty position offers a number of very interesting possibilities. What will the company do with this massive pile of cash? In their press release, they say:
The new investment will enable Formlabs to scale its operations to meet growing customer demand worldwide, grow R&D efforts, and to extend Formlabs’ reach in the market and ecosystem.
OK, probably true, but also a bit vague. I speculate something far grander.
They’re also announcing an arrangement with Autodesk to collaborate in the future, which aligns with my speculation.
The level of investment now controlled by Formlabs is smaller, but still functionally comparable to Carbon, who have received over USD$100M in investment.
What is Carbon doing with their money? They’ve developed a very good SLA-based 3D printer with which they’re selling a sophisticated and growing set of powerful materials. In my previous analysis, their financial model should provide that company with a tremendous and consistent long term revenue stream. Their strategy is to provide a platform on which they can sell premium materials.
Curiously, one could look at Formlabs and see a very similar company. Like Carbon, Formlabs’ technology is very similar, save for the fancy oxygen-permeable no-stick tray patented by Carbon. But there are multiple other methods of achieving a no-stick tray by other SLA 3D printer companies.
But those other companies don’t have USD$58M at their disposal.
It seems to me that Formlabs could conceivably take a run at Carbon by doing three things:
- Developing a no-stick tray to enable continuous, rapid 3D printing
- Developing a suite of fancy materials useful for specific applications
- Expanding their sales force and marketing to bring their message to the numerous industrial and professional companies who could become Formlabs customers
Could Formlabs do this with the new USD$35M investment? Almost certainly; that is a tremendous amount of money.
Formlabs vs Carbon: the next big competition.