Speculations Surrounding Lithoz’s Potential IPO Preparation

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Growth numbers in the startup world can often be indicators of major developments. A recent update from German ceramic 3D printing expert Lithoz has us wondering if it is gearing up for an initial public offering (IPO). The company revealed a 30% increase in printer sales and almost doubled material production in 2023, leading to speculation about the possibility of Lithoz stepping onto the public market.

While it’s important to recognize that sharing growth data doesn’t always and automatically point to an IPO, it is undeniably one significant reason for this disclosure. Others include attracting investors and top talent, boosting market presence, building partnerships, or even preparing for future business strategies, like drawing potential acquisition offers from larger companies.

This growth pattern followed by an IPO isn’t new in the tech and manufacturing world. Take Desktop Metal and Markforged, for example. Both in the 3D printing industry, these companies shared impressive growth numbers before going public. Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) went public in 2020 through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger. Similarly, Markforged (NYSE: MKFG) joined the public market in 2021 via a SPAC. These examples from the same industry could suggest that Lithoz might be thinking about following a similar route.

When observing outside of the realm of 3D printing, a similar pattern persists. Twitter, now known as X, unveiled figures related to user base growth and revenue increase prior to its 2013 IPO. Meanwhile, Snap, credited for its renowned Snapchat app, transformed into a public entity in 2017 after drawing attention to rising user engagement rates. Additionally, data analytics company, Palantir Technologies, and food delivery service, DoorDash, publicized their growth metrics in advance of their respective 2020 IPOs. These instances serve as a testament to a general trend that sees startups, supported by substantial growth, evolve into public entities.

The Buzz Surrounding IPOs

The current climate may prove to be favorable for Lithoz. With a focus on large-scale production, an innovative approach to “Ceramic AM Factory,” and a growing array of applications for 3D printing in diverse sectors, the company holds a promising position in an expanding market. To add to its appeal, 2023 proved to be an exceptional year for Lithoz, as printer sales swelled by 30% and material production nearly doubled compared to the previous year. This boom is largely attributed to serial production, making it especially intriguing for partners operating several Lithoz machines. Lithoz’s strategy of offering comprehensive technical solutions for ceramic 3D printing has also played a key role in driving its success.

Lithoz presents a particularly compelling case. As a market leader, the company has witnessed a spike in the use of its lithography-based ceramic manufacturing (LCM) 3D printing systems. This high-precision and high-quality technology is a cornerstone in sectors like aerospace, medical, and electronics. Notably, Lithoz’s drive to broaden mass production through its “Ceramic AM Factory” initiative requires attention. Revolving around the creation of an efficient, streamlined process for producing 3D printed ceramic components, this approach marks a significant stride in bridging the gap between prototyping and full-scale production.

Lithoz CeraFab S65. Image courtesy of Lithoz.

“By establishing these interconnected machine parks, Lithoz is driving the growth of serial production in ceramic 3D printing,” said Lithoz CEO Johannes Homa. “We’re working consistently with our customers to scale up to mass production. With one of our partners now producing well over one million parts per year, it’s fantastic to see all the effort paying off!”

With the industry’s upward trajectory, an IPO could provide Lithoz with the capital needed to accelerate its expansion and solidify its market leadership. Nevertheless, without any official announcement of an IPO, we can only speculate. Going public through an IPO is a significant move that involves regulatory, financial, and strategic considerations. Not every startup chooses this path; some may seek alternatives like acquisitions, more private funding rounds, or even remaining private.

Bold Strategies

As Lithoz continues to make strides in ceramic 3D printing, its spin-off Incus, in collaboration with Element22, has also made waves in a related area. They have achieved a significant breakthrough in lithography-based metal manufacturing (LMM). Together, they produced personalized Smart Watch Housings using Titanium6Al4V (Ti64), a material known for its high tensile strength and biocompatibility. The process developed by Incus and Element22 involves a unique feedstock and a specialized sintering method, leading to parts with superior mechanical properties that exceed medical implant standards. The move showcases the technological headway that LMM technology brings to the electronics and smart wearables industries, particularly in the realm of mass customization or personalization of gadgets.

In particular, Incus’s new HammerPro40 mass production unit plays a crucial role in this advance. Its ability to print up to 16 watch cases in less than 2.5 hours significantly reduces production times and costs.

Incus CEO Gerald Mitteramskogler remarks, “The HammerPro40 demonstrates our ability to match or even surpass the production economics of classical milling centers. Our LMM technology has proven its ability to match the intended size and function without the need for extensive surface finishing or machining. With a fully customized smartwatch housing, we can achieve a competitive cost structure compared to traditional manufacturing technologies, especially when designs can no longer be realized with MIM or CNC.”

Sintered Titanium Smart Watch Housing before surface modification. Image courtesy of Incus.

These developments indicate a growing adoption of LMM for high-volume, highly customized consumer goods, showcasing the evolving landscape of additive manufacturing. Similarly, while Lithoz’s recent growth numbers are impressive, signaling a company successfully scaling up, the question of an IPO remains open. If Lithoz decides to venture into the public market, it will follow the path of several predecessors who have found success in the tech and manufacturing sectors. As this sector grows and diversifies, it will be interesting to see how Lithoz could capitalize on its current achievements and navigate potential opportunities, including a possible IPO.

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