3D printing start-up Carbon (formerly Carbon3D) today announced that it raised $81 million in an extended series C funding round, which included new strategic investors GE Ventures -- General Electric's (NYSE:GE) venture capital arm -- BMW (OTC:BAMXF), Nikon (OTC:NINOY), and JSR (OTC:JSCPY), as well as existing investors. It also announced that it plans to begin offering its recently launched M1 3D printer to international markets.
The new funding round brings Carbon's total raise to $222 million. The new funds will be used toward Carbon's goal of bringing 3D printing to more companies and other entities that are transitioning from using the technology for prototyping only to also using it for various production applications.
In April, Carbon launched the M1, its first polymer 3D printer that's aimed at the enterprise market. The machine is powered by Carbon's compelling proprietary Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology, which is reportedly 25 to 100 times faster than leading 3D printing technologies and enables immense materials possibilities.
Does it matter?
Carbon's news is quite material across the board. It's naturally a positive for Carbon, as the strategic funding -- which means that strategic partnerships have been formed -- represents a vote of confidence from industrial giant General Electric, premium automaker BMW, Nikon, and JSR. The latter two companies, both based in Japan, will help Carbon bring its technology to the Asian market. Nikon sports expertise in metrology, 3D measurement, and X-ray CT, while JSR is a manufacturer of chemicals.
The news is also material to leading diversified 3D printing companies 3D Systems and Stratasys.While both companies have recently introduced impressive new technologies, it's certainly not good news that companies of GE's and BMW's stature are forming strategic partnerships with their new competitor.
Carbon already had an impressive list of backers. Notably, Google Ventures, Alphabet's venture capital arm, led Carbon's $100 million series C funding round in the summer of 2015. Ford has been partnering with Carbon, while the automaker's former CEO Alan Mullaly is on Carbon's board of directors.
No single strategic partnership is likely to move the needle for a company of General Electric's size. However, the Carbon partnership taken together with all of GE's investments in the 3D printing space -- which include a recently announced planned $1.4 billion combined acquisition of European metal 3D printing companies Arcam and SLM Solutions -- could contribute to the innovative technology's positive impact on GE's financial performance.