Israeli 3D printing startup Formlabs announced on Thursday that it has nailed down a $35 million Series B funding round led by the Foundry Group. Other investors included Pitango, Pascal Cagni, DFJ Growth and CAD titan Autodesk, which promised ‘strategic collaboration’ with Formlabs as a part of their investment.
“Formlabs‘ efforts over the years in introducing new materials and capabilities have defined the category of professional desktop 3D printing, resulting in significant growth for the company along the way,” said Max Lobovsky, Co-founder and CEO of Formlabs. “With the new investment, we’re excited to develop more powerful tools to enable anyone working with 3D content to create remarkable things. Formlabs will continue to grow the stereolithography business and bring new tools to the world to advance our goal of making digital fabrication more powerful and accessible.”
The company claims to have the best-selling line of stereolithographic (SLA) printers worldwide. There are different techniques of 3D printing. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) molds material, which is often plastic and heated until it is soft enough to shape, in deposited layers. SLA uses a different kind of material that is hardened not by temperature, but by light or UV light (see more on FDM vs. SLA here). The special material for SLA printing, called a photopolymer, is usually unique to the company producing the machines. The company’s flagship Form 2 indeed comes with its own materials and software.
But because of that precise match between “ink” and printer, resolution tends to be higher on SLA-produced objects than with FDM. It’s a precision that has far reaching applications and attracts people willing to spend more to produce something of perceived higher quality. While SLA has a reputation for being quicker than FDM, there are other techniques that you could say are clipping its heels. CLIP — continuous liquid interface production — might be up to 100 times faster. In the meantime, SLA has the floor. The SLA 3D printing market could be worth $8.41 billion worldwide by 2020 according to Markets and Markets.
The company’s flagship printer Form 2 has specs that allow for production of objects as large as 145mm x 145mm x 175mm and produces materials at a thickness between 25 and 100 microns. The Form 2 runs for $3,499 per unit. Competing machines include the DWSLab Xfab (€5,000), Autodesk’s own Ember ($5,995) and the XYZ Printing Nobel 1.0 ($1,499) among several others.
The round comes on the heels of Formlabs’ acquisition of online 3D print community Pinshape and opening of a new office in Japan. All in all, the company has raised $55 million in capital. Natan Linder, Maxim Lobovsky, and David Cranor founded the startup in 2011, which is headquartered in Somerville, MA.
Techstars and Foundry Co-founder Brad Feld will also join Formlabs’ board. “While the excitement and hype around consumer 3D printing has waned, the professional 3D printing category has had unabated demand,” Feld said in a press release.