Annual Recap: Insights into the 3D Printing Industry from July 2023

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July 2023 was a month dominated by developments in additive manufacturing for space applications, the scalability of metal powder, and large format 3D printing.

Review all the 3D Printing Industry News from 2023.

The merger and acquisition saga between Stratasys, 3D Systems, Nano Dimension, and Desktop Metal also continued into July 2023. The month saw Nano Dimension increase its special tender offer price for Stratasys, as 3D Systems’ hoped for a swift termination of Stratasys’ merger agreement with Desktop Metal.

Read on for more 2023 3D printing news highlights from 3DCeram, Skyrora, Orbital Composites, PyroGenesis, 6K Additive, Q.Big 3D, KraussMaffei, and more.

Stratasys’ Headquarters in Rehovot, Isreal. Photo via Stratasys.

Stratasys, 3D Systems, Nano Dimension, Desktop Metal saga continues

3D printing news surrounding the merger and acquisition efforts of Stratasys, 3D Systems, Nano Dimension, and Desktop Metal continued to dominate headlines in July. 

The start of the month saw Nano Dimension’s Chairman and CEO Yoav Stern respond to a comprehensive update on the merger and acquisition activity published by 3D Printing Industry in June. In particular, Stern addressed the report produced by Lake Street Capital, which was quoted in the article.      

Stern disputed claims alleging that “institutional investors do not back their bid to buy Stratasys,” arguing that these were totally false. Stern also debunked allegations that their previous acquisition attempts of Stratasys weren’t serious, saying that “when we first bid $18 at the tail end of 2023 in May, the shares were valued below $14 and saw a surge following our bid. We’ve since raised it to $20.05.”

Stern’s responses were later vindicated in July when Nano Dimension upped its special tender offer for Stratasys Ltd. stock. This hike was a reflection of the potential 3D Systems and Stratasys merger becoming increasingly plausible.

The bid from Nano Dimension was raised from $24.00 to $25.00 per share in cash, signifying a boost that offered a 233% premium over the cash component of 3D Systems’ bid, and a 93% premium over Stratasys’ share price. At this point, 3D Systems presented a joint offer of $24.00 for every Stratasys share.

However, Stratasys remained steadfast in recommending its stakeholders to reject the partial offer from Nano Dimension. In a letter addressed to shareholders on July 17th, Yonah Lloyd, Stratasys CCO and VP of Investor Relations, noted that Stern “cannot be trusted, has given false statements about Stratasys and is not skilled enough to lead Stratasys.”

During this period, Stratasys announced that it considered 3D Systems’ merger proposal a ‘Superior Proposal’ to that of Desktop Metal. This decision followed the expression of a lack of support for the Desktop Metal merger by Stratasys’ shareholders. 

Nano Dimension offices in Munich. Photo by Michael Petch.

3D printing to accelerate space exploration 

The month opened with the 3D printing news that Edinburgh-based rocket manufacturer Skyrora had begun full-duration testing to qualify the updated design of its 3D printed 70kN rocket engine. Developed as part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Commercial Space Transportation Services and Support Programme, Skyrora’s rocket engines will be used for the company’s first commercial launch to orbit.

Also in space rocket development, French 3D printing OEM 3DCeram announced that it had been selected as an official supplier to space propulsion manufacturer ThrustMe. As part of the collaboration, ThrustMe is leveraging 3DCeram’s expertise in ceramic 3D printing to optimize the development and production of key propulsion system components.

Elsewhere, Orbital Composites (Orbital), an in-space manufacturing startup, was awarded a $1.7M contract from the US Space Force. This contract seeks to advance the development of in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) antennas. It is hoped that developments in this field will facilitate global access to broadband internet and clean energy, encouraging further space technology advancements in the future.

July 2023 also saw Orbital sign an MoU with Virtus Solis to build the first MW-scale Satellite-Based Cellular Broadband station. “Our Space Factories will leverage advanced robotics and autonomous systems to build high-performance antennas in space, reducing the cost by >100X,” commented Orbitals CTO and Founder Cole Nielson. 

Development in Metal powder 

The focus of material developments in July was metal powders. The most significant news in the metal powder 3D printing industry was when Montreal-based PyroGenesis obtained a commercial order for five metric tonnes (5,000 kg) of plasma atomized titanium metal powder for use in 3D printing.

This is reported to be the first ever order of titanium powder by the tonne. The client’s identity hasn’t been shared, but it is known to be a US-based advanced materials firm. The client further provisionally requested six more tonnes (600 kg) of titanium metal powders. These orders will be fulfilled at PyroGenesis’ advanced production facility in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Industrial 3D printing materials manufacturer 6K Additive also responded to production demand for titanium powders by partnering with French industrial metal 3D printing expert Z3DLab. This partnership aims at producing Z3DLab’s sophisticated ZTi titanium alloys range.

These powders will be produced using 6K’s proprietary UniMelt technology, which is said to deliver up to 100% yield. It is hoped that this collaboration will drive the production of new advanced 3D printing materials for use in medical implant and aerospace applications.

In material certification news, the Global standards organization ASTM International’s additive manufacturing technologies committee (F42) released a standard specification for maraging steel in powder bed fusion (PBF) 3D printing.

Maraging steel is a precipitate-hardened steel that gains strength through the aging heat treatment process and is widely used in the automotive, sporting goods, and aerospace industries. Titled ASTM F3607, this standard reportedly enables users to establish precise material requirements, whilst ensuring that their maraging steel parts possess their desired properties.

Advancements in large-format 3D printing

July also saw its fair share of 3D printer launches, especially with regard to large-format systems. For instance, German OEM KraussMaffei made its large-scale extrusion-based powerPrint 3D printer commercially available. First announced at last year’s K 2022 trade show, the powerPrint offers a substantial 2 x 2.5 x 2 m (10 m3) build volume, allowing for the production of large-scale parts for a variety of industrial applications. 

The powerPrint incorporates a 350℃ extruder, making it compatible with a range of materials including PLA, PA, PET, PLA, ASA, TPU, and PP. KraussMaffei highlights molds, moldmaking, pipes and fittings, facade panels, and prototyping as key use cases of the powerPrint. 

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