Earlier this summer, Ford Motor Company showed off how it was testing 3D printing technology to improve its manufacturing and create new prototypes of car parts more quickly than with conventional methods.
Now the startup that Ford (F) tapped in the initiative has landed $100 million new in funding, led by Google Ventures. Both Carbon3D and Google Ventures declined to disclose the valuation.
The funding round highlights just how hot the 3D printing technology has become, with analysts predicting that the market for it could reach $16.2 billion by 2018. It also shows that Google may be interested in exploring how the technology could be used for its own ambitious initiatives like its self-driving car project.
Carbon3D first showed off its technology to Google (GOOG) co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin during its public premiere at the TED conference in March. It was from there that Google “started a dialogue with us,” said Carbon3D CEO Joseph DeSimone.
“Google has broad aspirations,” DeSimone said, referring to Google’s self-driving car and drone projects. “They are doing a lot of things with hardware and prototyping and the ability to support them in that is going to be very cool.”
The two entities clicked over similarities in certain aspects of their technologies, DeSimone explained. The idea behind Google’s crown-jewel search technology is that its algorithms learn to provide more accurate results as more people enter queries.
Similarly, Carbon3D uses algorithms to help train its 3D printers to make better prints, said DeSimone. “3D printing is plagued with failures,” DeSimone said, but using algorithms can help reduce the likelihood of printing jobs coming out wrong.
The startup routinely prints objects in its labs and collects the data on those prints to finely tune its devices, using algorithms that help with the calculations, DeSimone said. Each time there is a defect in a print, the data from that print job “gets fed back to our algorithm and we learn from our mistakes not to do it again,” he said.
Carbon3D also asks its customers if they are willing to share their printer data with the company so they can use the data to improve their product’s performance.
Joining Google Ventures in the new funding round are Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner along with Reinet Investments S.C.A. Previous investors Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, and Northgate Capital also participated in the investment.
With the new funding round, Carbon3D now has raised $141 million in total funding.
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