FORECAST 3D has been acquired [Source: Fabbaloo]
This is a bit of a surprise: US-based FORECAST 3D, a leading 3D print service, has been acquired outright by UK-based GKN Powder Metallurgy.
GKN Powder Metallurgy is a rather large operation providing a number of services and materials related to metal additive manufacturing. They’re part of GKN plc, a huge global conglomerate founded in 1759 comprised of 58,000 staff, of which apparently 7,400 are in the GKN Powder Metallurgy operation.
FORECAST 3D Services
Meanwhile, FORECAST 3D is a twenty-five year old 3D print service, founded by the Weber brothers, literally in a southern California garage where they first operated a single SLA 3D printer. Since then the operation has grown significantly, adding a wide variety of 3D printing processes to their portfolio.
Today they offer these 3D printing processes:
3D Systems SLA
3D Systems SLS
SLM Solutions DLMS – the only metal option from FORECAST 3D
As well as a number of conventional manufacturing processes, such as CNC milling and casting.
At first this acquisition seems quite strange, as GKN Powder Metallurgy’s entire raison d’etre circles around metals. They provide metal printing, metal powders and metal services. What business would they have in purchasing a faraway company that provides other 3D print processes?
In spite of this apparent mismatch, GKN Powder Metallurgy’s CEO, Peter Oberparleiter, believes the two companies are a “perfect fit”.
FORECAST 3D Acquisition
In fact, it seems the two companies are indeed a perfect fit. Here’s how it works:
While GKN Powder Metallurgy is a global company, they don’t yet operate in every geography. A big hole in their operations turns out to be in the western US, where FORECAST 3D does most of their business.
Tick one benefit.
Secondly, while GKN Metallurgy provides comprehensive metal AM services, they don’t provide thermoplastic services. But FORECAST 3D does, and significantly so.
This acquisition allows GKN Powder Metallurgy to instantly get into a completely new line of business. Their business is not “Metal AM’, but is now “AM”.
Tick two benefits.
GKN Powder Metallurgy Strategy
“They are everywhere we aren’t – geographies, markets, technologies and base materials. Combining our individual capabilities will present unparalleled advantages to our customer bases and enable us to cross-promote additive manufacturing in metal and plastic over more diversified markets. It is an important step on our journey to become No. 1 in this high growth market.”
Meanwhile, FORECAST 3D CEO Corey Weber says:
“GKN’s resources, production experience and footprint will be the perfect fuel for this new FORECAST 3D engine as we prime it for the new world of local, on-demand manufacturing.”
FORECAST 3D Future?
What to make of this? It is quite interesting to see a large player like GKN Powder Metallurgy move so strongly into a completely new line of business. It’s so surprising because the entire GKN family of businesses center around metal. I suspect that, like many 3D print services are gradually discovering, clients want to complete entire projects, whether they are made from metal, plastic or both. And they’re looking for services that can provide an end-to-end experience to simplify their relationships.
For FORECAST 3D, I have a suspicion this is going to lead to a huge transformation. They’ve clearly figured out how to provide regional 3D print services, and now, with the vast resources of GKN Powder Metallurgy, will expand globally using that knowledge. They may open up new factories, or perhaps piggy-back on GKN Powder Metallurgy’s existing sites. But regardless, their thermoplastic expertise will be deployed more widely.
For other players in the 3D print service space, you seem to have a new, very large competitor.