Although 3D printing has so far been a bust when it comes to consumers, investors still have high hopes for the technology when it comes to industrial manufacturing.
One such benefactor is Burlington, Mass.-based Desktop Metal, which said Monday that it landed $115 million in funding. The startup declined to comment on its valuation, but investment-tracking firm PitchBook estimates it has a post-valuation of $1.02 billion.
Among the company’s investors for the latest funding round are New Enterprise Associates, Alphabet’s (GOOG) venture capital arm GV (formerly Google Ventures), GE Ventures (GE), Future Fund, and Techtronic Industries, an investment holding company specializing in manufacturing, power tools, and related equipment.
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It was only last fall when Desktop Metal raised $45 million, but Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop says there is such “strong demand” for the company’s 3D printers, the new funding “freezes us up to develop new products” and meet expectations.
The fact that raising more money means giving up equity in the company to outside investors didn’t seem to bother Fulop.
“I don’t think about dilution as much as how much we can win in the marketplace,” he says.
Desktop Metal’s printing systems contain both 3D printers that can produce small objects from metal powders and machines called sinters, which contain microwaves that heat the metal powders, causing them to become dense and usable.
One of the startup’s investors, Milwaukee Tool (a subsidiary of Techtronic Industries), is experimenting with Desktop Metal to create small gears that would fit inside its various power tools, says Fulop.
One version of Desktop Metal’s 3D-printing system sells for $120,000 and was designed to be used by mechanical engineers for prototyping and printing a small number of parts at corporate offices rather than factories. Desktop Metal is also selling a more capable version of its 3D printing system that can cost around $500,000 and is to be used at factories for mass-producing metal parts.
The cheaper version of Desktop Metal’s 3D printing system will ship to customers in fall while the more expensive version will debut next year.
Besides Desktop Metal, several companies like HP, Inc. (HPQ) and the startup Carbon (which is also backed financially by GE and GV) are betting that 3D printing will eventually become commonplace for industrial manufacturing.
“I see it like the early days of semiconductors,” says Fulop in reference to 3D printing eventually becoming a multi-billion dollar market that can revolutionize manufacturing similar to how advances in computer chips have transformed the PC market.