There’s been a bit of a shakeup at BCN3D.
The Spanish company has been around the 3D print space since the early times. I recall seeing their then-primitive FFF devices in trade shows as early as 2013. Since then the company has strongly refined their FFF systems, and today offers a variety of sophisticated devices suitable for professional and even manufacturing use.
Along the way they’ve made incremental jumps in technology with the Sigma series, followed by the Epsilon series. They acquired Astroprint in 2021, which gave them access to a powerful cloud system for their customers.
All of this seemed to be along a particular trajectory: refining FFF technology to the highest level for use by industry. They’ve achieved that, but then, quite surprisingly, in 2022 they announced “VLM”.
VLM, or Viscous Lithography Manufacturing, is a completely different 3D printing process that doesn’t use a vat of resin, as most resin processes do. Instead VLM uses a transparent film to carry a single layer of resin to the build chamber. This process repeats to build entire objects. The advantage is that VLM can produce objects using vastly thicker resins, hence the “viscous” in the process name. They say the resins can be up to 100X more viscous than typical 3D print resins.
The benefit comes from the ability to infuse different additives into the resin that could not be used by non-viscous processes. This has opened up a very wide range of possible materials, which BCN3D could exploit in the future.
VLM sounds very promising, yet it is utterly different from their traditional FFF process. The process is different, the materials are very different, the applications are different, and therefore the customers will be different.
Because of this divergence from the FFF trajectory, BCN3D has decided to spin off their VLM business into an entirely new and separate entity, Supernova. What will Supernova do? They explain:
“Supernova’s vision is to elevate products through advanced technologies, based on its breakthrough VLM technology. Supernova unlocks real production applications by providing solutions that combine quality, productivity, and a competitive cost per part.”
Supernova is incorporated as a US-based entity, and will likely focus its initial business in that country. Meanwhile, BCN3D will continue forward as-is with their FFF technologies. Some staff from BCN3D will migrate to Supernova, and in particular, the VLM team.
One trigger for this move could have been interest in the company’s Technology Adoption Program, where companies could register to gain earlier access to VLM technology and help develop materials and applications.
It would appear that there were many US-based companies that entered the program:
“These companies span various industries, including Automotive, Aerospace, Manufacturing, Consumer Goods, Footwear, Audiology, Healthcare, and Defense, resulting in strategic partnerships with customers such as Puma, Saint Gobain, Orbea, Hutchison or Prodrive.”
This is a very shrewd move by BCN3D, and I believe it will be quite successful. They realized they have a tiger by the tail, and it deserves its own cage. The applications for VLM will be utterly different from FFF, and so will the client base.
That will require a completely different sales and distribution setup, among other differences. It makes complete sense to split up the companies so that they can each move forward without worrying about the other side.
Someday it may be that Supernova eclipses BCN3D in size, especially if manufacturers catch on to VLM.