Formlabs Acquires Micronics: Desktop SLS 3D Printer Kickstarter Canceled

By on July 11th, 2024 in Corporate, news

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Formlabs has acquired Micronics

Formlabs has acquired Micronics: what does this mean for desktop SLS 3D printing?

Formlabs is the well-known producer of (first) desktop SLA equipment and (more recently) inexpensive desktop SLS 3D printers. SLS is a powder-based 3D printing technology where a laser selectively melts layers of powder to build 3D objects, sometimes as end-use production parts. Most SLS systems on the market are quite expensive and targeted at industry.

Micronics is a startup from 2021 that has developed a powerful desktop SLS system that offered the lowest cost SLS 3D printer ever, with a Kickstarter launch cost of only US$3399. The company’s products were not yet shipped, but the technology looked very promising.

Micronics launched the Kickstarter campaign for their first desktop SLS 3D printer, the Micron, last month, and was instantly funded due to extreme interest by over 400 buyers. Some US$1.4M was raised, similar to Formlabs’ own initial Kickstarter over ten years ago.

But today there was a surprise announcement: Formlabs has acquired Micronics, and the Kickstarter has been canceled.

Micronics explained that the Kickstarter backers will be fully refunded, and receive a US$1000 credit with Formlabs for any future Formlabs products that emerge.

In a video showing a discussion between Formlabs CEO Max Lobovsky and Micronics CEO Henry Chan, it was revealed that the Micronics team will be relocating to Boston to work directly at Formlabs HQ on advanced SLS systems.

In the interview Lobovsky suggested he had been prowling around a trade show looking for new tech recruits, but encountered Micronics. I get the impression Lobovsky was so impressed with the work done by Micronics he wanted to have the entire team at Formlabs.

And so the deal unfolded.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Chan appears quite happy in the video.

What does all this mean?

I’m certain that Micronics Kickstarter backers are extremely disappointed. Some comments from the Kickstarter campaign:

“Now we will just never have an affordable SLS printer, I know Formlabs probably offered you a lot of money but you could have still actually delivered the kickstarter units.”

“Call me a cynic but they were just bought out so formlabs doesn’t have any competition – this has happened so many times it’s kinda depressing”

“I am super disappointed. Now there will never be affordable sls printing in the near future.”

“While your decission is understandable I am very disappointed… Nevertheless you were honest enough not to collect the pledges and revealing “the big news” afterwards…

Nevertheless all the best and good luck with your new employer / Formlabs.”

This does indeed appear that Formlabs has taken out a potential competitor. However, it remains to be seen what will actually unfold. The Micronics team will be working at Formlabs, and no doubt improve the SLS capabilities of the company.

The new team could help improve Formlabs’ existing Fuse 1 SLS 3D printer line, or produce a machine similar to the intended Micron device. Or something in-between. Or all of the above. We do know that Formlabs took a very long time to work out the bugs in the Fuse 1, whereas the Micronics team developed an SLS system in far shorter time. Those skills are now at Formlabs, so things could develop much faster.

It’s now up to Formlabs to make a decision on whether to offer a lower cost SLS system like the Micron.

The acquisition stops Micronics from competing with Formlabs, but also opens up the possibility of others replicating the same path Micronics took. Perhaps they are already in progress, operating in stealth mode as you read this story.

Via Formlabs and Micronics

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!