When I first heard BASF acquired Sculpteo, I wondered why they chemical giant would take such a step.
BASF has, by any measurement, been striking deals at an astonishing rate in the 3D printing community. They have established deals to provide countless 3D printer manufacturers with materials, and even committed to joint research programs where exclusive materials can be developed.
That all makes a great deal of sense, as BASF’s goal is to sell more chemicals, in the form of resin / powder / filaments in this case. They’ve generally been ahead of their competitors in locking in deals in the 3D printing industry and have set a foundation for massive future growth.
But all of their arrangements have been, in one way or another, to provide materials.
But two weeks ago they announced they had reached an agreement to fully acquire Sculpteo, the popular 3D print service based in France.
Wait, that’s not a material supply deal. This takes BASF from a materials supplier to an actual 3D print operator. This is quite switch. Does it mean BASF is changing their strategy with regards to 3D printing?
Sculpteo CEO Clément Moreau
We sat down with Sculpteo chief Clément Moreau to find out what’s really going on in the BASF deal.
Moreau first pointed out that the deal is not quite finalized, although both parties have agreed on terms. It sounds like the deal will officially close later this year.
When it does close, Moreau explained to me that Sculpteo will continue to operate as an independent entity within the BASF family with “freedom to operate”, and that there are no dramatic changes to come. All staff are to stay in place and in fact, Moreau himself will continue on as CEO for the foreseeable future.
Sculpteo Using BASF Materials?
Will Sculpteo switch to using only BASF materials? Moreau explained that Sculpteo would continue to use its current set of materials and definitely not force clients to use BASF materials, as that would likely discourage some clients from returning. Moreau said Sculpteo “would be free to use any type of material beyond BASF’s”.
I suspect, however, that BASF will supply some materials to Sculpteo, and at a very discounted internal price, too. But you won’t have to use them unless you want to. Moreau mentioned BASF is interested in having Sculpteo use their PA6, PP and PPSU materials, however.
If BASF is not involved in Sculpteo operations and does not intend on using the service as a monopoly for their materials, then why on Earth would they have acquired them.
BASF Sculpteo Benefits
Moreau explained their purpose is actually one of demonstration. It seems that many large clients and prospects of BASF are slow to adopt new materials, and require considerable evidence and persuasion to make changes.
The plan seems to be to use Sculpteo as a kind of “demonstration center” for unconvinced entities. By paying a visit to Sculpteo, they would be able to see a competent organization using large volumes of particular BASF materials and thus gain confidence that they really do work well.
BASF is particularly interested in showcasing their materials to the automotive industry, where there should be a huge pickup of additive manufacturing activity in the future.
Sculpteo BASF Benefits
What’s in this deal for Sculpteo? For one, it provides them with a massive financial backstop to reduce risk. Moreau will now spend considerably less time finding and dealing with investors, and can focus more on business operations itself.
The other benefit is that BASF can act as a kind of “bank” for Sculpteo if it wishes to embark on expansions of any kind: BASF can float the cash to do so very easily.
And that could be already in the works, as it sounds that Sculpteo is planning to hire around 50 new staff to bring them to a total of near 80 employees.
This deal is clearly a win-win for both BASF and Sculpteo. But it also means we’re going to see a bigger, badder Sculpteo soon.
The smile on Moreau’s face may be permanent.