German chemical giant Evonik acquired a piece of UnionTech.
Evonik is well-known in the 3D print space as a manufacturer of high-quality materials. Currently they offer a series of nylon and flexible powder materials for SLS 3D printing, as well as a PEEK filament for FFF 3D printing.
Now Evonik seems to be taking a very interesting step by acquiring a portion of UnionTech through their venture capital unit.
The Shanghai-based UnionTech has some 190 staff and is perhaps the leading producer of SLA-style 3D printing equipment in China. We took a close look at one of their devices, the RSPro 600, a few years ago and were quite impressed. Today they offer the RSPro 600 and four other industrial SLA 3D printers.
Details of the arrangement were not made public, so we don’t know how much of UnionTech will be owned by Evonik, nor do we know how much money changed hands. All we know through the release is that “Evonik has acquired a minority stake in Chinese company UnionTech through its Venture Capital unit.”
We do know that the deal will allow Evonik to participate in UnionTech’s internal discussions, and perhaps that’s what this is all about.
It may seem a bit odd for a materials producer to acquire an equipment maker, particularly one for which Evonik does not currently market materials, but there is a method here. Let’s see what Evonik’s Venture Capital head, Bernard Mohr, said:
“We expect great technical advances in the field of stereolithography. Evonik is preparing the launch of ready-to-use materials for this process. Our investment is therefore not only aimed at a profitable financial return, but above all at new insights in the use of this process. Evonik expects an accelerated market access for the new photopolymer products, especially in the very fast-growing Chinese market.”
This suggests that Evonik’s soon-to-be-released SLA materials may get a boost by working directly with UnionTech. I’ve seen this effect before, where manufacturers gain a great deal of knowledge by “becoming their own users”. This concept can lead to very important insights that the manufacturer might not have realized unless they used their own product for real-life purposes.
I think this is a terrific move by Evonik, as it will surely increase the quality of their upcoming SLA resins.
And they’ll also profit from UnionTech’s growth.
For UnionTech, this provides not only cash for expansion and further product development, but also provides a direct line into a chemical manufacturer. Through this connection they might be able to provoke the development of unique materials for their clients.
Ultimately it is the client that requires the materials, and often they have specific needs that sometimes don’t get heard by the chemical manufacturers. This arrangement could enable more rapid interaction and thus more rapid deployment of innovative resin products.
It should be interesting to see how this partnership evolves.