Desktop Metal’s first major move since becoming a public company is a $300M one: acquiring EnvisionTEC.
Desktop Metal 3D Printing
Boston-based 3D printing unicorn Desktop Metal has been making more than just headlines in the additive manufacturing industry. Since their introduction, they’ve been making an impact.
First coming to attention as a well-funded but super-secret stealth operation, the first thing any of us knew about Desktop Metal was that they knew how to pull in money. Before any but investors had the chance to learn anything about the company aside from its name, Desktop Metal had already pulled in nearly a hundred million dollars.
Finally, in spring 2017, the company unveiled its first two products: the namesake desktop Studio System and the larger Production System. Both focused squarely on what seemed to be Desktop Metal’s total focus: metal 3D printing.
Perhaps we should have guessed then, when the Production System was unveiled, that sussing out the company’s strategy wouldn’t be as simple as its name. The Production System took the “desktop” aspect out of the equation. And then in late 2019, the Fiber took the “metal” out of it as the company introduced a continuous carbon fiber 3D printing solution.
So here we were with Desktop Metal not necessarily focusing squarely on either the desktop or the metal segments. One thing that did stay consistent, though, was the goal overarching every move the company did: industry leadership.
This has been made perfectly clear through a few high-profile moves:
- Raising huge amounts of investment
- Aggressively protecting IP through lawsuits
- Introducing and bringing to market several types of production-focused 3D printers, materials, and software developments
- Going public
That last move, to become a publicly traded company, has been a major move. Few 3D printing companies today are public, and even fewer unicorns.
When I asked Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop about some of the company’s motivations in pursuing a place on the NYSE, he told me:
“It’s something that gives us the ability to recruit talent, and gives us the ability to be acquisitive if we need to, more currency to dedicate to our future. It gives us more of an ability to invest in organic growth and supercharge our capabilities.”
So today we’re seeing part of that strategy unfurl as Desktop Metal is now being acquisitive.
Desktop Metal Acquires EnvisionTEC
The first (of how many?) acquisition is one that I certainly never would have predicted: Desktop Metal will, pending regulatory approvals, be acquiring EnvisionTEC.
Well-known for originating DLP technology, Michigan-based EnvisionTEC is a leader in polymer 3D printing. As a quick rundown, today’s announcement traces some of the company history since its founding in 2002:
“As the original inventor of digital light processing (DLP) 3D printing technology, EnvisionTEC has one of the strongest intellectual property portfolios in the area-wide photopolymer 3D printing market, counting over 140 issued and pending patents, which Desktop Metal believes includes blocking intellectual property.
Today, EnvisionTEC has over 5,000 customers across a broad range of industries, including medical devices, jewelry, automotive, aerospace, and biofabrication. In addition, the company is a leader in the dental market, more than tripling the number of Envision One dental shipments from 2019 to 2020 and with over 1,000 dental customers now using its printers for end-use parts. Key customers include Cartier, Celgene, Ford, Hasbro, Oral Arts, Stuller, and Smile Direct Club. In addition to extensive customer adoption, EnvisionTEC has a broad library of over 190 materials, featuring photopolymer resins with material properties in-line with or exceeding those of thermoplastics and multiple FDA-listed and 510(K)-cleared resins for the manufacturing of medical devices. The company augments its robust proprietary material development efforts with a selectively open business model, leveraging relationships with major chemical companies such as Henkel Loctite, DSM Somos, Detax, Keystone, Adaptive3D, and Arkema to sell third-party, industry-validated resins for use with its additive manufacturing platforms.”
The move is “total consideration of $300 million, consisting of a combination of cash and newly issued Desktop Metal stock.” EnvisionTEC Founder Al Siblani will remain in place as that business’ CEO.
So… Desktop Metal’s new subsidiary — as of the expected close in February 2021 — is a leader in such areas as dentistry and bioprinting. So Desktop Metal is now not just a player, but a leader, in these application areas.
EnvisionTEC has a storied history in this industry. Its new marriage with Desktop Metal will be something to watch for sure. There’s some definite synergy we can already see:
- Portfolio development for advanced 3D printers and materials targeting real-world applications
- Strong IP standing
- Strong IP protection, including via legal action
For all its strengths, EnvisionTEC has also not been without its troubles. These have come, as so many do, from changing market composition including new competition. There are several strategic approaches to overcoming competition, but the biggest decision is pretty straightforward: do so internally or turn to an external party. Clearly the latter move was the winning choice here, as EnvisionTEC turns to the Desktop Metal fold. While now “Desktop Metal” as a company name is even less accurate an overall description, there’s still desktop (including DLP) technology and definitely still metal.
Desktop Metal x EnvisionTEC Future
So what’s ahead? This can likely be summed up in a single word: production.
The newly expanded Desktop Metal full company portfolio is, in another single-word summation, extensive. In an investor call today, Desktop Metal revealed a look at some of the strategic angles at hand; some of the most explanatory cards from the presentation follow (click to enlarge; also the full deck is available here):
Some of the keys here include:
- Larger integrated product portfolio across metals, composites, polymers, and biofabrication
- Global distribution network more than doubling to 68 countries
- Bringing Desktop Metal’s Single Pass Jetting (SPJ) technology to EnvisionTEC’s robotic additive manufacturing (RAM) platform, which could be quite literally huge for casting
All in all, this was a move few might have predicted — but one that, as with so many unexpected moves, actually makes a lot of sense.
If any competitive players in the 3D printing industry weren’t already keeping a wary eye on Desktop Metal, now might be the time to focus radars and plan accordingly.