Retrospective Look at the 3D Printing Industry in May 2023

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Keen on learning about the latest 3D printing advancements this year? Visit our comprehensive 3D Printing Industry Review of the Year series.

Crucial events of May 2023 comprised 3D Printing Industry’s participation at RAPID + TCT 2023, the largest AM tradeshow in North America presenting cutting-edge technologies.

M&A actions involving Nano Dimension, Stratasys, Desktop Metal, and 3D Systems heightened during May. The $1.8 billion acquisition of Desktop Metal by Stratasys was publicly revealed. Following Stratasys’ refusal of Nano Dimension’s final offer of $20.05 per share, Nano went onto plan a special tender offer for a minimum of 51% of Stratasys shares for $18 per share in April 2023. This offer was made post the merger announcement of Stratasys-Desktop Metal in May 2023. On top of this, a proposal to acquire Stratasys through a cash and stock combo was made by 3D Systems a few days later.

In other news, sectors like research, construction, and aerospace were the key highlights for the month.

Read on for more 3D printing news from May 2023 including Stratasys, Desktop Metal, Nano Dimension, 3D Systems, Nexa3D, Markforged, and more.

Stratasys-Desktop Metal deal made official; Nano Dimension’s critical

The M&A activities of Nano Dimension, Stratasys, Desktop Metal, and 3D Systems continued to dominate headlines, and events ramped up with 3D Systems announcing a $1.33 billion bid to buy Stratasys.

Private discussions started in the early parts of 2021, and then in May 2023, Stratasys and Desktop Metal announced officially a proposed deal, valued at $1.8 billion, also providing details about the specifics of the merger. As shown in SEC filings, the Boston company originally planned in 2021 to take over Stratasys, suggesting a price of $60 for each Stratasys share. Approximately at the same period, Stratasys shares were sold for $20.72 but rose to $51.72 by February 2021. The Desktop Metal offer was declined by the Stratasys board in 2021, stating undervaluation, and Stratasys shares went back to being between $20 and $26 until November 2021, when they almost hit $35.

In May 2023, Nano made a new proposal to buy Stratasys, aiming to secure at minimum 51% of Stratasys shares at $18 per share. After careful scrutiny, Stratasys refused this proposal as it was deemed not beneficial to Stratasys and its shareholders and didn’t represent a “Superior Proposal” according to the conditions of the merger agreement with Desktop Metal.

An interesting aspect that drove this flurry of acquisition activities, marking them as unusual, not just within the 3D printing industry but also in the corporate world, was the enthusiasm of Nano Dimension’s CEO to take his objections to his competitors public.

The CEO of Nano Dimension, Yoav Stern, aside from sharing his insights on mergers and acquisitions on YouTube, took exception to the Stratasys-Desktop Metal merger during a conference call. Stern also divulged having conversations with Desktop Metal from as far back as November 2022. Stern deemed the $800 million valuation of Desktop Metal as being too high, pointing out a negative 3% gross margin and claiming there was value damage to shareholders in excess of $2 billion.

Desktop Metal received the label of a “SPAC refugee” from Stern, who criticized the merger as a “bail-out.” Stern doubted the legal standing of Desktop Metal’s rights plan and advocated for its dismissal by a court. He recommended that Stratasys shareholders decline the merger, underscoring Nano’s superior all-cash proposal and raising doubts over the financial stability and strategic alignment of the merger between Stratasys and Desktop Metal.

In the aftermath of its plans with Stratasys, Desktop Metal announced a provisional shareholder rights plan. This is a standard protection tactic against aggressive takeovers. As a matter of fact, Stratasys implemented a poison pill plan in July 2022. The intention of this plan was to safeguard Desktop Metal from market accumulations and forcible tactics, guaranteeing equitable dividends for every shareholder. The expiration of the shareholder rights plan was scheduled for either the finalization of the Stratasys merger in late 2023 or July 2024, whichever comes first.

RAPID + TCT 2023: a showcase for unique products

The month of May started with RAPID + TCT 2023 taking place in Chicago. It displayed the introduction of advancements in the 3D printing sector by key industry participants. This expo featured groundbreaking technologies from 350 exhibitors and 200 speakers. Companies like Nexa3D, DMG Mori, Markforged, Axtra3D, and others revealed their unique product offerings.

Todd Grimm taking to the stage on day 3 of RAPID + TCT 2023. Photo by 3D Printing Industry

For this 3-day event, Founder and President of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Todd Grimm, took to the main stage to give a run-through of enterprises present at the tradeshow. This event witnessed keynote speakers covering major themes like industrialization, sustainability, and reshoring, aligning with legislative initiatives. 

CEO of Czinger Motors, Kevin Czinger gave a keynote speech on Divergent Technologies‘ Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS) illustrating “true digital manufacturing” gaining traction in automotive and defense, with endorsements from Aston Martin and Mercedes AMG. “These are vehicles where we are going to be building hundreds and then tens of thousands of vehicles by 2025-2026 using digital manufacturing,” said Czinger.

Additionally, a keynote speech by Omar Mireles, an R&D Engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, highlighted AM applications in space, including topology-optimized components on the International Space Station (ISS). Industry leaders like HP emphasized automation with the Jet Fusion 3D Powder Handling Automation Solution, addressing high-volume production needs. 

Omar Mireles taking to the stage. Photo by 3D Printing Industry.

Apart from the keynotes being the focus for the initial two days, a panel discussion was held on the final day including AM industry leaders SME Director and CEO Robert Willig, Wohlers Associates, SAE VP of Programs Chris Ciuca, and Impossible Objects CCO Jeff DeGrange. The panel titled “AM Industry Outlook” discussed the opportunities and challenges within the Additive industry.

Willig highlighted industry growth from $2 billion in 2012 to $18 billion in 2023. Wohlers highlighted diverse applications, particularly in aerospace, medicine, and automotive sectors. DeGrange stressed growth driven by applications, emphasizing the pivotal role of electrical applications. Other points on education, collaboration, and the increasing role of AI were also discussed.

Shaping the future of medicine with 3D printed pills

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) have developed an effective method for 3D printing pills that allows control over drug release. This innovative process prints pills in specific shapes that control how quickly they dissolve, ensuring precise delivery of medication to meet individual patient requirements.

In this pioneering new approach, an inverse design strategy merges computational methods with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing to demonstrate its effectiveness. The application of this development extends beyond personalised medicine, with potential uses in catalytic bodies and granular fertilisers.

3D printing: a path towards environmentally friendly construction

Kraus Gruppe, a well-known real estate developer, recently broadcast its intention to develop the largest 3D printed building in Europe. Situated in Heidelberg, Germany, this edifice, commissioned by Heidelberg IT Management, will serve as an IT server hotel. PERI will construct the building utilizing COBOD‘s BOD2 3D printer. The completed building is expected to measure approximately 54m in length, 11m in width, and 9m in height.

Made of 100% recycled concrete, it aimed to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% compared to traditional buildings. The project showcased 3D printing’s design freedom and speed, with completion expected in July 2023. 

A look inside the 3D printing process of LizzieSat satellite

Earlier in May, 3D printer manufacturer Markforged revealed a work-in-progress 3D printed LizzieSat satellite, developed in partnership with aerospace company Sidus Space. The satellite, aimed at a maximum weight of 100 kg, utilized Markforged’s flame-retardant Onyx FRA material for metal-like strength, weight reduction, and faster production. 

Sidus Space’s previous 3D printed prototypes in space remained intact and functional for a year. LizzieSat, set to launch on SpaceX Transporter-9, focuses on real-time geospatial intelligence with 3D printed components for faster, cost-effective fabrication, and adaptability to diverse launch vehicles and sites.

2023: 3D Printing Industry review of trends and news.

2022: 3D Printing Industry review of trends and news.

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