The Strategy of Strategic 3D Printing Investment
Dassault Systemés has invested in Rize, and the implications are intriguing.
This week at SOLIDWORKS World 2019, Boston-based Rize had a couple of interesting announcements. First, the company announced a strategic partnership with Dassault Systemés through which anyone purchasing a Rize One 3D printer receives a subscription to SOLIDWORKS. The next day, Rize shared the news of a successful Series B funding round that brings in $15 million. Joining existing investor Longworth Venture Partners are four very interesting companies: Innospark Ventures, Sparta Group, Converge — and Dassault Systèmes.
Through the course of SWW, I sat down with folk from both Rize and SOLIDWORKS, as well as attending the companies’ press conference, to get a bit more of a look into the strategies involved here. The investment, for one, represents a Dassault Systèmes first in working with a 3D printer manufacturer.
So why would the force behind SOLIDWORKS choose Rize?
“We are focused on the end users who use the printer. For us that means we have to have a very close connection to all the tools they use in the 3D printing value space,” Rize President and CEO Andy Kalambi told me when we sat down for a chat. “We’re looking at smart spaces, involved with haptic experiences, making parts more intelligent. It’s not just for design; it’s for manufacturing, for service; it’s design, 3D printing, and materials science together and making more capacity available.”
In making more available, Kalambi focused on an idea he often embraces: sustainable innovation. He brought this together with another idea he’s calling “wise kaizen” — “kaizen” being a strategy for continuous improvement.
Rize has been focusing on continuous improvement, as shown through the introductions of the last year: Digitally Augmented Parts, strong partnerships, awards, stronger materials and full-color 3D printing.
Part of this continuous improvement is the need for market viability. Kalambi traces the path of computers as an example of the road ahead for 3D printing.
“When computers were in a mainframe world, there was limited access. Then PCs came along and blew up. Now with the internet, imagine the explosive power that access has created: the more people have access to technology, the more value it can have,” he explained.
As part of that growing value stream, integrating through broader operations and directly reaching potential users is a necessity for ongoing momentum. SOLIDWORKS is one of the most popular CAD programs out there, and has been adding more for 3D printing. Rize is among the many users — and, indeed, has deep roots among its executive team at SOLIDWORKS.
During the press conference, SOLIDWORKS CEO Gian Paolo Bassi noted, “3D printing is important to our community, important to engineers. And SOLIDWORKS wants to be the design tool of choice for every printer.”
Going beyond that general statement, we also heard that “SOLIDWORKS believes in 3D printing — and believes in Rize.”
Later that day, I sat down for a chat with SOLIDWORKS’ Suchit Jain, VP of Strategy and Business Development. He noted that the question is always: “What’s next?” This was a theme throughout SWW for sure, as the event is becoming ever more platform-focused and, after 21 years as SWW will for 2020 be rebilled as “3DEXPERIENCE World.” Part of this larger thinking of course extends to 3D printing and to internal SOLIDWORKS-specific strategies.
“Look at design software, most is for subtractive. For 3D printing, integration with software helps. Different companies, different technologies, need different levels of support and are facing different challenges. We are working on many different levels with different companies,” Jain said.
With a great majority — around 80% — of companies that are 3D printing reporting that they’re designing with SOLIDWORKS, particularly at the professional level, it’s been very important for the software team to examine additive offerings and strategies.
Jain was involved in the work on the partnership with Rize and “feels good” about the relationship. He was careful to note that it’s not an exclusive relationship, though it is so far unique for SOLIDWORKS.
“We do believe in their technology. The future is about materials, and they also offer differentiation in color, in safe-to-use materials. We see opportunity. And these are friends we know well, and we believe in what they’re doing. They’ll put SOLIDWORKS with every printer now, as we are going hand-in-hand together,” he continued.
“As far as I know, this is the first time Dassault Systèmes has invested in a 3D printer company. Dassault Systèmes is very careful; all investments are very strategic; it’s not a venture capital company.”
Jain noted that the relationship with Rize — though not to the level of investment, necessarily — is something we are likely to see more of as SOLIDWORKS continues to embrace 3D printing. He noted several other companies that displayed in the Partner Pavilion at SWW as good relationships, including Ultimaker, and underscored that “we have to be strategic.”
There’s a lot to unpack through these interesting announcements and this deep relationship. SOLIDWORKS itself is integrating more into the 3DEXPERIENCE platform thinking, and the team behind the software is strategizing to account for all the ways in which it could be, and is already, used. Design and manufacturing aren’t just one thing, and 3D printing is increasingly a tool of choice in the creative toolbox.
Finding a technology and company that fit into a growth vision, with reliable and scalable technology, can be tricky. But what Rize and SOLIDWORKS (and Dassault Systèmes) are creating is a powerful statement, backed up with the latter really putting its money where its mouth is.