Leading diversified 3D printing company Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) recently led a funding round of Massivit 3D Printing Technologies, an Israel-based start-up that makes speedy, super-large 3D printers. Massivit's press release last week stated that the funds will be used to further develop and market its 3D printers, which are based on its proprietary Gel Dispensing Printing (GDP) technology. Terms weren't disclosed.
Here's what you should know.
Massivit's claim: "The fastest... large format 3D printing solution"
The company founded in 2012, claims that its Massivit 1800 system is "the fastest and most advanced large format 3D printing solution." It provides an example of its system's speed on its website: It would take only five hours to print a simple sculpture of a standing human being. If that's accurate, then it is, indeed, mighty fast compared with printers currently on the market. Here are the company's specific claims on its website about the system's speed and other capabilities:
- Speed: up to 39 inches per second in x and y-axes
- Productivity: up to 1 ft of object per hour
- Printing dimensions: 4 ft x 5 ft x 6 ft
- Can print two different objects at the same time
Massivit's GDP technology -- yes, yet another 3D printing acronym -- is reportedly the only gel-based 3D printing technology. That's an accurate claim, to my knowledge, as the major polymer 3D printing technologies use either liquid resin or filament. Stratasys' Polyjet and 3D Systems' (NYSE:DDD) Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM) technologies, for instance, both use a UV-light photo-curable liquid resin, while fused deposition modeling (FDM) uses a filament. FDM was invented by Stratasys, but is now used by many 3D printer manufacturers, as the key patents have expired.
Like Polyjet and MJM, Massivit's GDP technology uses UV light to cure -- or harden -- its material. The company's gel, called Dimengel, is a proprietary material. According to the company's website, Dimagel is nonflammable and has good structural strength, similar to ABS polymers commonly used in 3D printing.
In September 2015, the first Massivit 1800 system was installed at E.S. Digital in Israel, a large print and digital communications company, where it's being used to create unique promotional campaigns. Massivit primarily targets the visual communications market, where its solutions are used to create large display objects for point-of-sale branding, advertising, exhibitions, theme parks, and other applications. The company, however, is planning to develop solutions for additional markets.
Stratasys' VP of corporate development and ventures, Alon Elie, commented in the press release about the benefits Stratasys gains by investing in Massivit:
With Massivit, we gain exposure to markets and applications in which Stratasys is not active today such as visual branding, outdoor signage, landscaping and construction. We are excited about the possible applications of Massivit 3D's GDP technology in those markets and others, which we will jointly explore.
Massivit's deep connections to Stratasys
Massivit's press release states that the company was founded by "a group of experienced industry veterans from leading digital printing companies." This is an understatement, considering that one of its three co-founders, Gershon Miller, was also one of the three co-founders of 3D printing company Objet. Objet merged with Stratasys in 2012, and brought its powerful Polyjet technology to the table. This technology powers Stratasys' higher-end 3D printers, notably its unique Connex Objet line of multimaterial, multicolor printers. Miller also founded Idanit, which was sold to Scitex Corporation, later rebranded as Scitex Vision, and eventually sold to HP.
Massivit's newly appointed CEO, Avner Israeli, joined the company from... surprise, surprise... Stratasys, where he served in numerous senior management positions.
Diversification into more nascent 3D printing markets
It seems quite likely that Massivit's GDP system has considerable potential, given the credentials of the company's founders and top management. If that proves to be the case, Stratasys will benefit, either as an investor or potentially as an acquirer.
Regardless of how this investment turns out, however, it shows that Stratasys is actively looking to expand into more nascent, less-crowded 3D printing markets. Among other benefits, possessing a competitive product in the large-format 3D printer market would likely make Stratasys less vulnerable to compelling new entrants in the polymer 3D printing space. HP and well-funded start-up Carbon3D both plan to bring to market in 2016 polymer 3D printers for the enterprise market that are reportedly much faster than those currently available. At this point, all indications are that both of their initial systems will be standard-sized. (Stratasys' main rival, 3D Systems, also does not offer any large-format 3D printers.) Whether or not their respective technologies can scale up remains to be seen.