Formlabs 3D Printing Raises $150 Million in SoftBank-Led Funding

Formlabs 3d printing is SoftBank’s first investment, illustrating renewed interest in the sector, which was key to sourcing medical equipment during the coronavirus pandemic

The new funding ‘is going to power us through the next stage of growth,’ said Max Lobovsky, chief executive and co-founder of Formlabs.

Formlabs Inc., a 3-D printing company that helped healthcare companies address medical-supply shortages during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, has raised $150 million in investor funding led by SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund 2.

Somerville, Mass.-based Formlabs—which makes hardware, software and materials that companies use to print digital objects in three dimensions—announced the investment on Wednesday. Its valuation is now $2 billion, up from $1 billion in 2018. Formlabs is SoftBank’s first 3-D printing investment.

The new funding “is going to power us through the next stage of growth,” said Max Lobovsky, chief executive and co-founder of Formlabs. Since its founding in 2011, the company has raised a total of $250 million, including the new funds, Mr. Lobovsky said.

The 3-D printing industry could grow to more than $100 billion in the next five years from $12 billion today, said Tasha Keeney, an analyst covering 3-D printing investments for ARK Investment Management, noting the market for end-use parts is now just 1% penetrated.

Formlabs’ 3-D printers.

Formlabs is one of several 3-D printing companies, including Desktop Metal and 3D Systems Corp. , that have attracted investors in recent months amid renewed buzz.

Corporate interest in new digital manufacturing strategies is rising, said Michael Shanler, distinguished vice president analyst at technology research firm Gartner Inc. That’s partly because corporate leaders have accelerated technology initiatives during the pandemic. “Organizations have put in the effort to figure out what manufacturing of the future should look like,” Mr. Shanler said.

Many companies now use the technology to quickly experiment with new designs and build prototypes and products in ways that couldn’t be traditionally manufactured because of cost and time constraints, Mr. Shanler said. “3-D printing represents a tool for getting into a market very quickly,” he said.

When the coronavirus was spreading rapidly through the U.S. last year, large companies and startups reprogrammed their 3-D printers to tackle shortages of medical equipment. Hospital system Northwell Health, for example, used Formlabs printers as a stopgap measure to fabricate nasal swabs to test for Covid-19. Tens of millions of swabs were printed last year using its technology, according to Formlabs.

Glidewell Dental, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based company that makes crowns, bridges, implants and other dental products, used Formlabs printers last year to manufacture tens of thousands of nasal swabs and thousands of components for medical masks, said Mike Selberis, Glidewell’s chief technology officer. Sales from that equipment helped Glidewell recover some of the revenue it lost due to pandemic-related business closures, he said.

Formlabs typically strikes deals for its 3-D printers with chief information officers and chief technology officers, among others. Printers from the company’s three product lines allow customers to print digital objects ranging from jewelry to dental retainers using about 30 different types of plastic materials. It also makes the software that is used with the 3-D printers. Other customers include Mayo Clinic, New Balance and Ashley Furniture.

Formlabs 3d printing will use the new funding to hire more engineers and sales, marketing and finance staff; accelerate product development; expand further internationally and possibly make some acquisitions, Mr. Lobovsky said.

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Companies in various industries are now using 3-D printers to build production parts instead of just prototype parts, said Deep Nishar, senior managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, the manager of SoftBank’s two Vision Funds.

“We are standing at the inflection point of unprecedented growth in the way products are being made,” Mr. Nishar said. Formlabs has “set and repeatedly improved the standard of affordability for professional-grade 3-D printing,” he added.


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