This is certainly interesting: 3D Systems announced a deal with CSM Bakery Solutions to jointly pursue 3D food printing activities.
To understand my interest, there’s a bit of history to hear first.
Back in the 2012-2015 period, 3D Systems’ corporate strategy was one of acquisition. They purchased dozens of companies related to the 3D print market, some valuable, and quite a few that had apparently no visible value or synergy with 3D Systems.
It turned out later that many of those acquisitions were simply part of a strategy to keep “bad news” from public eyes in order to maintain their then high-flying stock price.
The result was that 3D Systems accumulated dozens of hardware, software and services companies. Some of their products were eased into the 3D Systems main product lines, like those of GeoMagic, who produce terrific 3D CAD systems. Others, like BotMill, simply disappeared.
The strategy worked for a time, and then it collapsed as the stock price tumbled when the public and more importantly, investors, realized that 3D printing was in fact NOT magic and could NOT PRINT ANYTHING! While it was and is extremely useful, it cannot do everything and thus the stock prices of most 3D print-related companies took a tumble.
Regime change followed at 3D Systems and the new folks set upon one immediate task: cleaning up. Shortly thereafter, 3D Systems closed their consumer division entirely, abandoning a great deal of hardware and software. They also seem to have closed their ceramic 3D printer, and generally shut down lines of business acquired through acquisition that were not profitable or had lower growth than expected.
One of those shutdowns, I thought, would have been their “food” 3D printing operation. The food equipment appeared to be a result of their acquisition of Los Angeles-based The Sugar Lab, who had produced a sugar-printing machine. This happened in fall of 2013.
In January 2014, as part of 3D Systems’ incredible “announcing everything” event at CES that year, they announced the “ChefJet” system, that appeared to be a rework of the machine from The Sugar Labs.
But here’s the thing: almost all the items announced at that CES event were discontinued in one way or another. Some took a few years to fade away, like the zombie-like CubeJet that was resurrected three years in a row without being put to market.
The ChefJet kinda disappeared from the radar, like many of these other products. Not surprising, given the regime and strategy change, actually.
But then this announcement:
CSM Bakery Solutions, a global leader in bakery ingredients, products and services, and 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE: DDD), the originator of 3D printing and solutions, today announced they reached an agreement to collaborate in the development, sale, and distribution of 3D printers, products and materials for the food industry.
The global agreement allows the two industry leaders to join forces to bring innovative and creative 3D printed culinary products to the market. CSM will support the development of and have exclusive rights to utilize 3D Systems' ChefJet Pro 3D printer for high-resolution, colorful food products for the professional culinary environment.
So what’s going on here?
CSM Bakery Solutions is a very old company, having been founded in 1919! Through a number of acquisitions and good strategy, it has grown significantly and today supply “ready to bake to fully baked” food products, including cakes, icings, donuts, cookies, fats, bread, pastries and much more. They will work with a client to develop a pre-baked or baked specialty product, some of which you have no doubt eaten: they make items for Cinnabon, Ghirardelli, Reese’s and more.
It seems they produce pre-made food in vast quantities for clients, and provide specialty services as well.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if, among their vast food offerings, to also offer an ability to create custom-made sugar sculptures that could adorn other food items? Or even as standalone sugar products?
You’d probably need a number of machines able to do this, rather than just a single one. Thus I know understand 3D Systems’ interest: they could be able to sell CSM a lot of these machines.
For 3D Systems, the ChefJet appeared to be a dead product, but if CSM Bakery Solutions wants some, why not sell it to them?
And that’s what seems to have happened.