BCN3D has acquired 3D print cloud service AstroPrint.
Spain-based BCN3D has been producing a variety of increasingly powerful professional 3D printers since 2012, but has not yet reached the heights of the largest 3D printer manufacturers they compete with. However, that may change with a new path set by a very strategic acquisition.
BCN3D began by selling simple RepRap-style desktop devices, adding new functionality at each release. Their latest generation of equipment was announced last year, and the company was among the first to offer independent extruders. Recently they introduced a filament drying system, the Smart Cabinet.
It now appears at least some of that investment has been used to acquire AstroPrint, a San Diego-based cloud service that provides the ability to intelligently control groups of 3D printers. AstroPrint leverages the interfaces on 3D printers to gain control by an attached set top box or PC, which connects to the Internet and AstroPrint’s cloud.
AstroPrint’s cloud provides a huge set of functionality that is simply not found on any non-connected 3D printer, including:
- Smart slicing
- Remote printing
- Live monitoring
- Print queues
- Analytics Dashboard
- Multi-user management
- Cloud-based library
According to AstroPrint’s site as of this writing, they have “over 210,000 users” from “130+ countries”, with “over 4.4M objects printed”. On average, they have 2,000 3D printers connected simultaneously to their network.
And now those statistics belong to BCN3D.
AstroPrint Future with BCN3D
But what will BCN3D do with AstroPrint, whose many subscribers do not use BCN3D equipment? They explain:
“Following this first acquisition, BCN3D will continue to explore inorganic growth opportunities to develop its long-term vision of providing high-grade solutions that enable innovators to create the future. The integration of AstroPrint’s technology in the BCN3D Cloud will undoubtedly bear benefits for both its clients and the development of Industry 4.0 in the near future and beyond. BCN3D will utilize the entire software engineering team of AstroPrint for future developments to create brand new products never seen before in the 3D printing industry. The fusion of these two software teams will be spearheaded by Co-founder and CTO Daniel Arroyo, who will also now take up his role as Chief Software Officer of BCN3D.”
It seems that AstroPrint will operate independently, at least for the moment, and continue to grow the cloud network for all users, not just BCN3D’s.
However, it’s very likely BCN3D’s integration with AstroPrint will grow very deeply, and there will no doubt be significant advantages to using the two together.
Industry 4.0 and BCN3D
I’m particularly interested in the “Industry 4.0” mention in BCN3D’s statement. For those unfamiliar, “Industry 4.0” is defined by Wikipedia as:
“The ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Large-scale machine-to-machine communication and the internet of things are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and production of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.”
This strongly suggests that BCN3D could attempt to break into the manufacturing market, as Industry 4.0 practices are really geared for ongoing production, rather than one-off prototyping. AstroPrint could serve as a solid foundation for any Industry 4.0 development contemplated by BCN3D: the exchange of Industry 4.0 information could be routed, tracked and monitored by the AstroPrint cloud.
That would be a strategic move for BCN3D, as the manufacturing market is many times the size of the prototyping market where most 3D printer manufacturers sell their products.
This move could also be attractive to investors looking for the next big player in 3D printing. A company “on the move”, doing acquisitions, providing a variety of professional solutions, and seeking to enter the manufacturing market could be of great interest.
New investment could also lead to further acquisitions, even though this is only the first such move by BCN3D. Once an acquisition is made, the company will be seen as a growing force, with potential future acquisitions in mind. Other companies in the space have been making significant acquisitions in recent times, and BCN3D now joins that exclusive club.
AstroPrint was one of the leading independent 3D print cloud services, and with BCN3D taking them, it leaves other cloud-less 3D printer manufacturers in a position where they may have to develop their own cloud or use someone else’s cloud.
Every way you look at it, BCN3D has made an outstanding acquisition.