An Annual Review: March 2023 in the 3D Printing Industry

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What was this year’s biggest 3D printing news? The 3D Printing Industry Review of the Year is here.

Throughout March, the merger and acquisition saga between Stratasys, Desktop Metal, 3D Systems and Nano Dimension continued to unfold. In response to hostile acquisition efforts by Murchinson Ltd., Nano Dimension launched a speculative $1.1 billion bid for Stratasys. Murchinson and Nano DImension made contradictory statements following a Special General Meeting of Shareholders.

Elsewhere, a number of additive manufacturing developments were made within the automotive sector, whilst research initiatives continued to pick up pace.

Read on for comprehensive news coverage from March 2023 which includes the likes of Nano Dimension, Stratasys, Max Planck, Czinger, Sakuu, and more.

One of the BWT Alpine F1 Team’s cars in the pits at the Miami Formula 1 GP. Photo via the BWT Alpine F1 Team.

Nano Dimension and Stratasys’ Merger and acquisition saga escalates

Last month, Murchinson, a relatively unknown activist fund, publicly announced plans to acquire Nano Dimension, with hopes to oust the board and spend funds in an alternative manner. In response, Nano Dimension went on the offensive, making a $1.1 billion offer for 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys in March.

Nano Dimensions first showed an interest in Stratasys in July 2022, when it acquired a 12.12% stake in the Rehovot-based company. Stratasys swiftly enacted a poison pill defense to guard against the unwanted hostile takeover, giving investors the right to purchase additional shares in Stratasys for a lower cost than an “acquiring person.” The Rights Plan was set to expire on July 24, 2023.

Nano Dimension’s proposition to acquire Stratasys was at $18.00 per share, equating to $1.1 billion in cash. Nano Dimension emphasized that this offer indicated a 36% premium on Stratasys’s closing price as of March 1st, 2023.

Late in the month, it was revealed by Stratasys that its board had unanimously dismissed the Nano Dimension offer. The Stratasys board deduced that Nano’s proposal significantly undervalued the company, hence it was not in the shareholders’ best interest. To this, Nano Dimension responded by presenting a revised proposal to acquire the remaining Stratasys ordinary shares for $19.55 per share in cash.

The contention between Nano Dimension and Murchinson persisted throughout March. Following a Special General Meeting of Shareholders, both companies released conflicting statements about the meeting’s outcome.

Murchinson, the activist investor, asserted that it received immense support for all its four proposals. This claim was directly challenged by Nano Dimension. Although the proposals received at minimum a 92% share of the votes, Nano expressed that the percentage of outstanding Nano ordinary shares present was less than 13%, excluding shares owned by Murchinson and Anson.

As the month of March concluded, Nano Dimension commenced legal proceedings against Murchinson, charging that the activist had inappropriately obtained and exploited their shares in Nano. This signalled the start of the termination of Murchison’s acquisition endeavors, which eventually amounted to naught. 

Nonetheless, the M&A interactions involving Stratasys, Nano Dimension, Desktop Metal, and 3D Systems proceeded as the months went by. 

Stratasys’ Headquarters in Rehovot, Israel

Research Initiatives of the Month

March was also a significant month for advancements in 3D printing research initiatives. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduced a 3D printing technique that specializes in the creation of flexible, delicate replicas of human hearts.

This innovative process involves converting medical images into a 3D digital model and printing a soft, anatomically accurate shell that reflects the patient’s heart. Blood pressure cuff-like sleeves enclose the 3D printed heart and aorta, simulating the heart’s pumping action. The objective of this individualized methodology is to assist physicians in determining the suitable implants based on both the anatomy and functionality, thereby providing a customized approach for treatments related to heart diseases.

Meanwhile, in Germany, the RWTH Aachen University‘s Digital Additive Production facility (DAP) investigated the use of a zinc-magnesium alloy for lattice structures. They aimed to address the limitations in existing bone defect treatments as part of a project named BioStruct. The usage of Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) is crucial in these structures’ creation, which opens up new design alternatives for implants tailored for individual patients.

The main focus of the BioStruct project is on bioresorbable implant concepts that encourage patient-friendly bone healing. The technique involves the design of algorithmic lattice structures with a ZnMg alloy. The insights gained from these findings were expected to be developed further in the reACT alliance, with plans to manufacture customized, bioresorbable implants that cater to the specific requirements of patients and improve the outcomes of therapy.

Elsewhere, Mexico-based company MANUFACTURA, led “The Eggshell Project” aiming to convert organic waste into sustainable building materials using a KUKA KR-150 robotic arm. The project utilizes 3D printing to create bioceramic blocks from discarded eggshells combined with sustainable aggregates. 

This approach addressed the environmental impacts of the ceramics industry and Mexico’s food waste. The resulting sustainable material includes the Eggshell Bricks Wall and Eggshell Column, demonstrating circular processes and emphasizing environmental consciousness and technological advancements.

3D printing speeds up automotive innovation

Entering into the automotive industry, 3D Systems revealed the purchase of four SLA 750 3D printers for wind tunnel testing by BWT Alpine F1. The machines use Accura Composite PIV material to enhance part production due to its excellent sidewall and surface quality, intricate feature detail, and geometric accuracy which diminish preparation time. Alpine F1, already a twenty of 3D Systems’ technology, found the SLA 750 to offer superior part quality and improve productivity.

In California, Czinger Vehicles collaborated with Xtrac to manufacture an unprecedented 3D printed gearbox for the 21C Hypercar. The industry-first 7-speed semi-sequential gearbox features sub-100ms shifts, high torque per mass and a 48V-electrically actuated twin barrel system.

Employing a proprietary aluminum in a unique printing process, the gearbox achieves impressive weight savings, structural performance, and efficient printing times. This methodology eliminates the necessity for tooling, fast-tracks development, and allows for real-time design improvements.

Luxury car customization company, ARES Modena, teamed up with Roboze for the industrial 3D printing for the customization of its supercars. ARES leveraged Roboze’s ARGO 500 FFF 3D printer in order to enhance process repeatability, precision and create custom parts using high-performance polymers.

ARES Modena is known for creating bespoke vehicles such as the Bentley Mulsanne Coupe. Alberto Migliorini, who heads Technologies at ARES Modena, acknowledges the significant role Roboze’s industrial methods and understanding of material science played in this project. Notably, the large build volume of the ARGO 500 permits the fabrication of bigger parts and employs advanced polymers which are well-suited for use in the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors.

Valuation of Sakuu’s $705M SPAC Announced

In a noteworthy move, Kavian platform manufacturer Sakuu Corporation inked a definitive business combination agreement with Plum Acquisition Corp. I (Plum), a Special Acquisition Company (SPAC).

After completion, the merged entity will be named Sakuu Holdings Inc. and listed on a US national exchange as ‘SAKU’, with an estimated enterprise value of $705 million. Sakuu specializes in next-gen lithium-metal and all-solid-state batteries, utilizing proprietary multi-material, multi-process AM technologies.

Read all the 3D Printing Industry coverage from Formnext 2023.

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