BASF and BigRep announced a blockbuster deal yesterday, or at least we think so.
BASF, the largest chemical company in the world, has been following the 3D printing industry for many years, looking for ways to enhance their presence in what could be a massive market in the future. They’ve established partnerships with multiple 3D printer manufacturers to provide quality materials, and even acquired a 3D print filament distributor.
BigRep has been developing and marketing very large-format 3D printers for several years now, discovering a very profitable niche for large printing by industry.
But there’s a problem.
BigRep has been constrained at times with the materials technology. As desktop 3D printer operators are well aware, the larger the print, the more probability of warping and print failure. BigRep’s machines, some with 1m build dimensions, is particularly susceptible to this phenomenon.
To counteract it, BigRep initially printed only in PLA materials, which tend to warp far less than other materials. They attempted an enclosed and heated build chamber some years ago, but that was apparently too costly. They developed their own specialized filament material that warped less, but offered better engineering characteristics than plain PLA.
All of these actions skirted around the issue: how to print large objects in better materials?
Now they’ve arranged a special partnership with BASF to explicitly develop new materials for use by industry. They say:
BigRep and BASF closed on a strategic partnership agreement to jointly develop 3D printing solutions for industrial applications. The collaboration includes the joint development of materials and printers for industrial customer requirements.
This should result in some very powerful materials that can be 3D printed at large scale.
But wait, there’s more in that excerpt: they are jointly developing PRINTERS for industrial use!
BASF is going to work with BigRep to design printers as well as the materials. That’s a step we have not seen them take yet, but it is a strong movement deep into the 3D printing industry.
As part of this agreement, it seems that BASF has acquired a portion of BigRep, via their subsidiary BASF VC – so now it can be said that BASF is literally a manufacturer of 3D printers today, with more interesting machines to come in the future.
I think this is a big deal for BigRep, as it not only opens up the possibility of using BASF’s materials engineering expertise and knowledge, but also their countless industry contacts and worldwide network to reach out to potential BigRep clients.
This is an incredibly good move by BigRep that should put them in a very healthy position for years to come.