In a rather surprising announcement overnight, Prodways has taken on Solidscape.
France-based Prodways has been a highly successful manufacturer of large scale production 3D printing equipment and materials, recently adding metal and SLS processes to their long-time SLA-style product line.
Solidscape, based in New Hampshire, USA, is one of the leading producers of high-end 3D printing equipment and materials for jewelers. They market both software and hardware to produce complex wax models suitable for casting.
But here’s the interesting thing: Solidscape has been owned by Stratasys, since they acquired the company in 2011. Thus Prodways purchased Solidscape directly from Stratasys.
I am somewhat puzzled by this development, as Solidscape’s line of business is rather different than Prodways’ traditional markets, making this quite a departure for the company.
Meanwhile, Stratasys unloading Solidscape is also puzzling, as they acquired the company in 2011 presumably for strategic reasons, which apparently have changed.
Some random thoughts on what might be going on here. First, Prodways.
As I mentioned, this is a departure for Prodways, as their machines are typically quite large, while Solidscape’s are quite small – literally jeweler size. What connection could be made between the two companies to provide synergy?
One notion is the idea of upselling production capabilities. Imagine a jeweler somehow hitting upon a very successful design. The jeweler then receives huge numbers of orders for the product, but their Solidscape equipment has only a certain capacity. I think the idea here would be to “graduate” the client into the much larger Prodways equipment, which can do more or less the same type of casting prints. It could be a way to naturally generate more sales of their production equipment.
Prodways says they are effectively leaving Solidscape alone, as they are retaining staff, offices and even the brand name. So perhaps they are simply going to wait on the sideline and pick up any Solidscape clients that outgrow their equipment.
For Stratasys, this is more puzzling. There doesn’t seem to be a press release on their website about the sale.
My guess is that Stratasys is gradually coming to the notion that the future for their company is indeed in the production manufacturing area, rather than the prototyping or small scale 3D printing operations they’ve largely dealt with over the past decades. They’ve spent considerable expense developing new technologies that specifically address production needs – although they’ve yet to officially release them, and they’ve partnered with Siemens – a major producer of manufacturing software and environments – to ensure they have the capability to make a transition.
It may be that the future of Stratasys might be as a supplier to large manufacturers, producing high margin custom devices to, say, print aircraft interiors or executive rail cars.
When you think about Stratasys in this way, does a jeweler supplier like Solidscape really fit in?
I don’t think so either.
Stratasys has no large scale wax-casting solution in the way that Prodways has, so that approach wasn’t open for them. Thus, sell Solidscape. This should provide a bit of a temporary cash boost to Stratasys, as the transaction is solely a cash deal.
That’s my guess.
For the folks at Solidscape, I suspect they’ll notice almost nothing at all, except that they may find bulk orders of equipment from a buyer may evaporate as that larger scale business might migrate to Prodways equipment.