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3-D printing firms expanding through acquisitions, new sites

By: Michael Lauzon

April 3, 2014

The U.S. 3-D printing manufacturing sector is evolving rapidly as evidence by three separate announcements made on April 2.

Two U.S. 3-D printing technology companies are investing in downstream operations that do additive manufacturing to make parts. Separately, a German company said it plans to set up its first U.S. facility, also to make parts.

3D Systems Corp. has acquired Medical Modeling Inc., a leading proponent of using 3-D modeling and printing in ways that are rapidly changing how reconstructive surgery is done. Medical Modeling is a pioneer in using 3-D printing for surgical needs and for patient-specific medical devices that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The combination of our rapidly growing healthcare business with Medical Modeling’s expanding range of products and services creates the largest 3-D printing-based personalized surgery and patient-specific medical device service capabilities available today,” stated 3D Systems President and CEO Avi Reichental in a news release. 3D Systems is based in Rock Hill, S.C.

3D Systems purchase of Medical Modeling is not a new direction for the company, a spokeswoman emailed.

“We have been in parts production for nearly 5 years,” stated Stacey Witten. “It is an important part of our business model, also serving as a lead generation and brand relationship building tool.”

Medical Modeling has helped tens of thousands of patients for implants, surgical planning tools and other design services, the company said. 3D Systems will consolidate its healthcare activities into a single unit headed by Andy Christensen, former Medical Modeling president and 3D Systems’ new vice president of personalized surgery and medical devices. Medical Modeling has been using most of 3D Systems’ technology, including modeling software and 3D printers.

Early this year 3D Systems announced the purchase of Xerox Corp.’s solid ink engineering and development teams and Gentle Giant Studios, with technology to model and make licensed 3-D printed characters from movies and other entertainment properties.

Stratasys Ltd. has agreed to buy two private companies in additive manufacturing that it will combine with its existing RedEye digital manufacturing business. Solid Concepts Inc. of Valencia, Calif., is the largest independent additive manufacturing company in North America and a partner with RedEye, according to Stratasys. Harvest Technologies of Belton, Texas, is a specialty additive manufacturer for a wide range of industries.

Stratasys CEO David Reis said in a news release that the strategic acquisitions will help his firm provide a broad spectrum of additive manufacturing solutions.

“As our customers’ requirements continue to expand, we must evolve to create full service offerings that provide a variety of technologies and custom manufacturing solutions and focus on high-end production applications,” Reis said. Stratasys is based in Minneapolis and in Rehovot, Israel.

Solid Concepts’ other U.S. facilities are in San Diego, Calif.; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; and Detroit, Mich. It has an overseas partner in Shenzhen, China. It employs about 450 and logged sales of $65 million in 2013. Stratasys agreed to pay about $295 million for the firm.

Stratasys did not disclose terms of the Harvest Technologies agreement.

Voxeljet Technology GmbH of Augsburg, Germany, will set up a U.S. site to print on-demand parts, molds, cores and models operation for automotive and other industrial customers using designs from 3-D computer-aided design software.

Michigan was chosen by Voxeljet because of its proximity to much of the U.S. auto industry and its supply chain, explained Voxeljet CEO Ingo Ederer in an April 2 news release.

“While Voxeljet’s customers span a range of industries, the auto industry is currently the heaviest user of our 3-D printing technology,” Ederer added. He noted that Voxeljet has extensive experience serving the 3-D printing needs of European automakers.

Voxeljet has been developing a conveyor-belt based 3D printer to continuously make very long parts. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Voxeljet’s project on the third day of his 2014 mission to Europe.

The German firm expects to set up in Canton in the third quarter of 2013 and will employ 15 to 20 within the first three years of startup.