Two years ago, few had any idea about Carbon, the 3D printing startup that’s now rapidly expanding across the globe.
The company developed a resin-based 3D printing technology they call “CLIP”, which enables more rapid printing than earlier resin technologies. While the company’s ability to 3D print in resin quickly is not unique, it does have a massive advantage over other 3D printing startups: funding.
The company had previously raised well over nine digits of cash to refine and expand their operations, which they certainly have done.
Today the company announced a very significant additional fund raise of USD$81M. This brings their complete fundraising total to an astonishing USD$222M - almost a quarter of a billion dollars! No other 3D printing startup has anywhere near this amount of funding, and in fact this amount even approaches the capabilities of the major existing 3D print players, 3D Systems and Stratasys.
But who has invested in Carbon and why?
Carbon explains that the latest funding comes from existing investors (which, by the way, includes 3D software giant Autodesk) and some new investors. These include BMW, Nikon, JSR and GE Ventures.
Woah - GE Ventures? This is the same company that just purchased two metal 3D printer companies. It seems GE is going full bore to capture a significant chunk of the 3D printer technology producers. Evidently GE is executing a 3D print-related strategy that we’ll have to investigate further.
Also, BMW? Nikon? These are not companies in the investment business, nor are they 3D printing companies. But they could be USERS of the technology. In fact, it’s highly likely they are using, at least experimentally, Carbon’s 3D printing system.
The two implications of their investment are: they intend on incorporating 3D printing technology into their processes in some way; they guarantee a significant chunk of future revenue for Carbon. They are “for certain” customers. Their presence will significantly influence the investment community: when a customer is buying the supplier, that’s a very good sign of confidence in their system.
JSR is a Japan-based company focusing on materials. In fact, their name, “JSR” originally stood for “Japan Synthetic Rubber”. I believe this is also a very significant partnership, as JSR no doubt will be (or is) involved in producing the unique chemistry of the materials used (or will be used) in Carbon’s M1 and successor 3D printers.
If you’re selling a 3D printing system, it’s a very good idea to have a partner for advanced materials. Carbon has sealed that deal here.
But of the USD$81M, Carbon says they will be using this money to expand their operations to apparently do two things:
Bringing additive technology to more customers
transitioning from prototyping-only use cases to applications
requiring final production quality parts with great surface finish, broad and expanding material options and the plans to transition to mainstream manufacturing.
Carbon also plans to offer its proprietary CLIP technology
internationally and is accelerating production to meet worldwide
demand for its M1 printer (International Expansion to Europe, Japan and Other Asian Markets)
Both of these make much sense. Adding the ability to produce production parts (instead of mere prototyping) will vastly expand their market. The ability to sell that equipment to manufacturers and prototypers in more regions will simply add to their bottom line.
It’s no wonder the investors added to the investment.