Formlabs Pulls In $30M to Push Line of 3D Printers
The hype over consumer 3D printing has waned, but the case for selling the machines to businesses seems to be growing stronger—and the venture capital is pouring in.
The latest to cash in is Somerville, MA-based Formlabs, which recently raised $30 million in new equity funding, according to a document filed with the SEC this week. The directors listed on the document include Barry Schuler, a partner with DFJ Growth, which led Formlabs’ $19 million Series A funding round in 2013; Brad Feld, the co-founder of Foundry Group, which led Formlabs’ $35 million Series B funding round two years ago; and Carl Bass, the former CEO of Autodesk, which also invested in the Series B round. (Bass is still on Autodesk’s board, and he joined Formlabs’ board as an independent director last year.)
A Formlabs spokeswoman declined to comment on the SEC document.
By our count, Formlabs has now pulled in more than $85 million in venture capital. Other 3D printing firms that have recently raised funding rounds include Carbon, which raked in $200 million in December; Desktop Metal, which last month announced a $65 million investment round led by Ford; and Markforged, which grabbed a $30 million round in November and said its business was profitable.
Formlabs has released several 3D printers since it was founded in 2011 by three MIT Media Lab alums. The startup’s flagship product is the desktop printer called Form 2, which uses stereolithography, a traditional technique that uses a laser to cure resin in layers. Last year the company added Fuse 1 and Form Cell to its product lineup.
Fuse 1, which is larger and more expensive than Form 2, uses a process called selective laser sintering to produce plastic parts. Form Cell (pictured above) combines robotics, advanced design software, and a line of Form 2 printers to automate much of the printing process. (Xconomy was one of the first beneficiaries of Form Cell—Formlabs used the system to print the trophies for our inaugural Xconomy Awards. See video and photos.)
Formlabs intends to begin shipping Form Cell to customers in the first half of this year, the company said in a February press release.
Form Cell fits into a broader industry effort to make 3D printers as efficient and cost-effective as they can be. Automation can be one piece of that equation, and New York-based Voodoo Manufacturing and Boston-based New Valence Robotics (NVBots) are among those that have also developed printers that use robotics to handle at least some of the manual labor.
Ultimately, Formlabs and its competitors are trying to shift the use of 3D printers from primarily making prototypes and small batches of parts, to higher-volume production of a variety of things. Formlabs has said its Form Cell system helps enable “mass customization”—basically, churning out large quantities of bespoke objects. The company has said the initial target markets include consumer electronics, dental products, and audiology products, such as hearing aids, advanced ear plugs, and in-ear monitors for performers.
“We believe we can drive 3D printing into more end-use applications by dramatically improving material properties and significantly decreasing the cost per part, bringing the promise of 3D-printed mass customization closer to reality for businesses and consumers,” said Max Lobovsky, Formlabs co-founder and CEO, in a January press release tied to the annual CES tech conference.