Stratasys’ Stealth 3D Metal Printing Strategy

By on May 23rd, 2017 in Corporate

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 Stratasys is into metal 3D printing after all
Stratasys is into metal 3D printing after all

Of all the major 3D printing companies, only one lacks a 3D metal printer product: Stratasys. Or do they? 

3D Systems some years ago acquired Phenix, from which they developed their current ProX DMP series, which currently holds no less than five different models. 

EOS has several powerful 3D metal printers, with recent machines involving multiple lasers to speed up 3D printing operations. 

Concept Laser and Arcam had 3D metal printing equipment of such capability that they were both purchased by GE to form  powerful 3D metal printing arms within the company. 

SLM Solutions was also courted by GE for their metal printing capability, but eventually they went with Concept Laser and Arcam. Trumpf is another major 3D metal printer manufacturer.

All of these companies and many others I haven’t mentioned are now capitalizing on the current strong interest in adoption of 3D metal printing technology by industry. It seems that in several key industries, most notably aerospace and automotive, have discovered that the technology actually can provide superior advanced parts for their businesses. 

But where is Stratasys in all this flurry of activity? You know, the company who INVENTED 3D printing (at least the plastic extrusion variety) decades ago? 

They don’t offer a 3D metal printer currently. They’re missing out. 

My spies tell me that the company some years ago decided to focus on a transition to plastic-powered production manufacturing strategy, as they simply didn’t have the resources to do that AND develop 3D metal printing equipment. This strategy most recently manifested itself as a pair of fascinating demonstration units. 

These two machines, and their siblings that are no doubt in the works deep inside Stratasys, will eventually transform the company into a much larger entity that takes a small piece of a market that’s vastly greater than the prototyping and low-volume production market they’re currently operating in. 

So there are good things coming for Stratasys, but they’re still on the outside of the metal market, looking in. 

Or are they? 

A couple of recent developments suggest something is in the works. 

One is their announcement of a deal with Desktop Metal, one of those perky startups with an entirely new way of 3D printing in metal – and at a very low cost, too. In this deal Stratasys’ resellers are able to sell Desktop Metal equipment (including the company’s future unreleased production metal machine), while under normal terms they would have been prohibited from doing so.

Another factor is that Stratasys actually OWNS part of Desktop Metal. They are a leading investor in the company and thus are aware of that company’s strategy and technology to some degree, and stand to profit through that company’s future successes. 

Finally, Stratasys announced they’ve invested in LPW, a leading provider of metal powder and associated hardware & software. 

So in spite of the fact that Stratasys does not offer (or even hint they’re developing) a 3D metal printer, their fingerprints are coated with metal bits. 

They don’t have a 3D metal printer, but they do seem to have a metal strategy. A very stealthy one. 

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!