The Lifecycle of a 3D Printing Company

By on October 23rd, 2014 in Ideas


The personal 3D printing space has now existed for at least five years. What stages do 3D printing companies move through as they grow?

We’ve seen many companies start their operations from scratch, grow and transform into major corporations. We’re listing the key stages companies traverse on their journey to success. Or they encounter issues and either shut down or change up their business. 

Startup: The secret phase, where no one but them and their investors know what’s up. It happens in labs, garages and basement, where inventors try to devise the new product. Companies may not emerge from this stage if they can’t make the product work or lack investors or effort. 

Campaigner: Once a company has something they feel is viable, they need to grow fast. Lately the best way to achieve that is through a very public crowdfunding campaign. This is the stage where you’ll typically first see the company and it’s product concepts. Failure at this stage typically occurs when the campaign fizzles – but sometimes they succeed very dramatically, providing the cash to cruise through subsequent stages. Who are these companies? Just search through Kickstarter, Indiegogo and similar services and you’ll find dozens. 

Small Business: A successful launch and a regular stream of customers means you have a real business. However, 3D printing companies at this stage are still very numerous and it’s difficult to discern one company from another. At this level, companies typically have limited sales, usually within a geographic region. 

Notable: A great product with great service usually means success, and 3D printing companies with this combination become notable among the community. They are the ones who are most frequently recommended and discussed. They are the ones who have growing networks of users. It’s very hard to get to this stage, taking several years of significant technical and marketing efforts. 

Leader: A very few companies become true leaders, where they become known outside the 3D printing community. They may appear in mass media and be the device “regular people talk about”. They have global sales of thousands of units, with large communities using their content ecosystems. 

Corporate: The final stage occurs when a large company acquires a Leader company. A classic example of this is the acquisition of MakerBot by Stratasys. MakerBot, prior to the acquisition, was easily classified as a “Leader”. Post acquisition in this stage companies change significantly due to the influx of cash and imposition of more corporate culture and practices.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!