A proprietary additive manufacturing technology backed by big-name brands could complement injection molding on factory floors in the near future.
Evolve Additive Solutions Inc.'s selective thermoplastics electrophotographic process (Step) technology allows manufacturers to use thermoplastics and composites for volume production across industries such as automotive, consumer products, industrial and medical, and has steadily garnered attention since its development in 2009.
The technology was part of an incubation project at 3D printer and additive manufacturing machinery maker Stratasys Ltd. before breaking out on its own in 2017. In April, Stratasys officially revealed it was spinning off the technology to form Evolve as an independent company. Stratasys remains a minority shareholder.
On Sept. 17, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based company announced a $19 million equity investment led by the Lego Brand Group — the think-tank arm of the Danish toy maker and the lead investor in Evolve — along with industrial tool and household hardware maker Stanley Black & Decker Inc. and a third undisclosed investor that has been referred to as an "iconic brand" by leadership at Evolve.
"This [investment] really is critical for us to accelerate the development and also commercialize it, getting it ready for production," CEO Steve Chillscyzn, a co-inventor of the Step technology, said in a phone interview.
"Our investors are also very keen on this, as we're strategically aligned, not just to get the technology further down the road, but they would like to use the technology inside of their own organizations," he said. "So, this investment isn't just an investment into the company; it's also an investment to get the technology to commercial [use]."
Earlier this month, Evolve announced it had shipped the first Step system, which is in the alpha development stage, to an undisclosed strategic partner — what the company referred to as a large manufacturer and, again, one with an "iconic brand name," according to the news release.
Evolve will test the system in the alpha stage for 12 months before going into beta testing for an additional 12 months. Chillscyzn said the company is aiming for full commercial development by late 2020.