Carbon3D announced on Thursday that it had secured a $100 million funding round led by Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) venture capital arm, Google Ventures. That's a huge vote of confidence for the upstart 3D printing company that's aiming to disrupt the manufacturing sector with its super-speedy continuous liquid interface production, or CLIP, technology, which it unveiled at the TED 2015 conference in March.
First Alan Mulally, and now a funding home run
In addition to the Big G, the Series C round includes new investors Yuri Milner, Reinet Fund S.C.A., F.I.S., and others. Russian billionaire Milner is known for his early investments in Facebook and Twitter. All existing investors -- Sequoia Capital, a divison of Silver Lake, and Northgate Capital -- participated again. Autodesk's $10 million investment via its Spark Investment Fund, announced earlier in the year, was converted to equity during this round.
"Carbon3D's printing technology is an order of magnitude faster than existing technologies," said Andy Wheeler, general partner at Google Ventures, in the press release. "Carbon3D's technology has the potential to dramatically expand the 3D printing market beyond where it stands today and reshape the manufacturing landscape."
Neither Google nor Carbon3D released the valuation. However, numerous sources, including Forbes and Bloomberg, are reporting that this latest round brings Carbon3D's valuation to a fat $1 billion; Forbes quoted research firm PitchBook and Bloomberg cited the ol' "person familiar with the matter." For perspective, 3D Systems and Stratasys both have a market capitalization hovering around $1.4 billion.
Carbon3D is extremely well funded, especially for a company that just began operating in 2013. To put its total funds raised of $141 million into perspective: 3D Systems had $171.2 million in cash along with $9 million in debt on its balance sheet at the end of the last quarter, while Stratasys had $502.6 million in cash and $175 million in debt.
In addition to attracting big bucks, Carbon3D recently attracted a marquee name to its board of directors: Revered former Ford CEO Alan Mulally -- widely credited for saving the company -- joined Carbon3D's board earlier this summer, making him its first independent director. The automaker is one of Carbon3D's early access customers and has been giving CLIP a spin ahead of the launch of the first commercial product, slated for 2016.
Carbon3D's super-fast CLIP tech
Carbon3D made a splash on the world technology scene in March when co-founder and CEO Joseph DeSimone unveiled and demonstrated the company's seemingly game-changing CLIP technology at the TED 2015 conference. CLIP harnesses UV light and oxygen to "grow" polymer parts continuously at speeds 25 to 100 times faster than the leading 3D printing technologies, according to Carbon3D. DeSimone's live demonstration left no doubt that CLIP is super-fast.
CLIP also reportedly opens up new materials capabilities. As DeSimone told me when I interviewed him this spring, "We can use chemistries that nobody else is able to use." He went on to say that the "materials properties [enabled by CLIP] are really key" and the even bigger story than speed. Furthermore, CLIP can reportedly produce objects that have smoother surface finishes than conventionally 3D-printed parts, and structural integrities on par with injection-molded objects.
So, it's no wonder that CLIP's been generating significant buzz for its potential to disrupt the manufacturing sector. Speed, materials capabilities, surface quality, and structural integrity are the key hurdles that have been holding back 3D printing from moving beyond prototyping and select, short-run production applications and into a greater array of manufacturing uses.
Carbon3D doesn't yet have a commercial product on the market. So, it's quite premature to crown it the king of 3D printing, or at least 3D printing in the polymer space. That said, with names such as Alan Mulally, Google, Autodesk, and Yuri Milner lining up behind CLIP technology, it sure looks like Carbon3D has a great shot at one day reigning supreme in the polymer 3D printing world.
Carbon3D's huge funding win is troublesome news for 3D Systems and Stratasys, as both companies are heavily dependent upon the polymer 3D printing space.