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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Is it all starting to make sense?

As I wrote my post last week on 3D Systems’ latest acquisition (Freedom of Creation - FoC), the shock factor was still in play as I pounded this keyboard. There was a marked difference in this genre of company to 3D Systems’ other acquisitions and corporate announcements.

Now the dust has settled somewhat, even taking into account that there have been four more announcements to process from the company since. None of these four are acquisitions, rather they include a distribution agreement with Voxeljet, the move of stock to the NYSE, a partnership agreement with 3D CAD company Alibre and the resulting bundle of products. From this, and some digging around the online news room on 3D Systems’ website I believe I am starting to understand the overall strategy.

Throughout last year as the acquisitions mounted, apart from the question of funding and how deep those pockets must be, I kept asking myself how the strategy would play out and how would it all fit together. A logistical nightmare even for the most organized of companies there would have to be some standardisation and some form of quality control implemented to bring all of these companies together under the same brand.  

The internal workings of 3D Systems have perplexed me for a long (long, long, long) time, and I don’t pretend to have the answers now. However, for years I have advocated a holistic approach to product development — stating that no one technology could be the silver bullet, and that an integrated approach with 3D software, 3D output and a positive culture was the way forward.

From everything that we are seeing, it seems to me that this is precisely the mantra that 3D Systems has bought into and is pursuing aggressively. The company took this live at the end of last year with a subtle change in its public profile, because somewhere between the 2nd December 2010 and 6th December 2010 the company went from labeling itself as  “a leading provider of 3D printing, Rapid Prototyping & Manufacturing systems and parts solutions”; to “a leading provider of 3D content-to-print solutions.”

From its core competency of developing additive systems I believe the strategy is to build a portfolio of products AND services that covers every single angle of the market that is springing up around 3D printing and positioning itself as the go-to company for the sector and the world at large. And they have to do this BEFORE all the patents expire. It’s a medium term strategy and the likes of me; among many, many others; are helping with the marketing and google rankings.

It’s a strategy that is not without risk, the source of funding has not been established and the logistics are yet to be ironed out, but the shares are doing ok. But if it comes to fruition the payoff will be huge because 3D printing is going to be huge.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

3D Systems is at it again, 2nd time this week.

After a 10 day break over Easter I have had a monster couple of weeks, working silly hours and the blog has, unfortunately, been low down on the list of priorities to fulfil.

Anyway, woes aside, it has been pretty easy to follow the comings and goings with twitter etc. And much tweeting has been dedicated to the antics of 3D Systems. Over the last two years, this Additive Manufacturing company has seriously upped its game — acquiring competitive and related companies left, right and centre. So much so, that it has almost become a joke between many of the commentators focused on this space. But the latest acquisition, announced earlier today by Deelip Menzies, whose own companies were recently acquired by 3DS, was not one that could have been predicted easily. Shock is reverberating all round.

3D Systems has now acquired Freedom of Creation. A company synonymous with depicting the capabilities of additive manufacturing by way of a gallery of high-end (and very expensive) products manufactured with AM processes. The products from FoC are invariably inspirational, aspirational and, quite simply, gorgeous.

I can easily see the gains from 3D Systems' side by bringing this brand into its fold, what I am struggling with is what on earth were Janne et al thinking? Probably money. Personally, I'm not convinced it will help the brand, but then, I've been wrong before - happy to admit it.

And ....

From my knowledge of FoC, I'm pretty certain that selective laser sintering (EOS) is (or rather, was) their preferred process. I wonder if this motivated 3D Systems in any way?