Desktop Metal, a 3D printing startup based in Burlington, Massachusetts, has raised $45 million in a Series C investment round from investors including Google, BMW, and Lowe’s. Desktop Metal will use the money to prepare for the launch of its first 3D printer later this year.
As Desktop Metal gets closer and closer to launching a compact 3D printer that can print with metals, people (and super-rich corporations) are starting to get very excited about the Burlington-based startup. So much so, in fact, that the company has just raised another $45 million from investors, taking its total investment up to $97 million since its founding in October 2015. Desktop Metal will use the money to continue preparing for the launch of its first 3D printer later this year.
And it’s not just faceless VCs pouring money into the exciting 3D printing startup either; it’s big names, companies who know more than a thing or two about revolutionary technology. GV (formerly Google Ventures) led the Series C round, and investors included BMW i Ventures and Lowe’s Ventures, the respective venture arms of car manufacturer BMW and home improvement company Lowe’s. Previous investors have included NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, GE Ventures, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing company Stratasys.
“Just as plastic 3D printing paved the way for rapid prototyping, metal 3D printing will make a profound impact on the way companies both prototype and mass produce parts across all major industries,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal. “We are fortunate to have the backing of a leading group of strategic investors who support both our vision and our technology, and who are pivotal in propelling our company forward as we prepare for our product introduction in 2017.”
Although less than a year and a half old, Desktop Metal already has a wealth of experience behind its fresh facade, including 75 engineers with expertise in materials science, engineering, and software. Fulop himself is no stranger to the 3D printing industry either, having been an early investor in successful additive manufacturing and 3D design companies like MarkForged, OnShape, ProtoLabs, and SolidWorks. Fulop also co-founded battery company A123 Systems in 2001 and was a general partner at venture capital firm North Bridge.
Desktop Metal also boasts several MIT professors amongst its ranks, including Ely Sachs, an early pioneer of 3D printing and the inventor of binder jetting; Chris Schuh, Chairman of MIT’s Materials Science and Engineering Department; Yet Ming Chiang, an expert in materials science; and John Hart, who leads the mechanosynthesis lab. Other experts at the 3D printing startup include Jonah Myerberg, a leader in materials engineering; Rick Chin, formerly of SolidWorks and Xpress 3D; and Marc Minor, head of marketing at Carbon. Scott Crump, the founder of Stratasys, sits on the board as board observer.
Many important companies in the automotive sector have stated their intention to use additive manufacturing equipment to produce car parts, either in the near or distant future. And while it is generally assumed that high-end, high-volume industrial 3D printers will be used to create these parts, prototype or end-use, BMW still sees potential in Desktop Metal’s forthcoming desktop 3D printer, presumably for smaller parts and printing in locations outside of the factory.
“Advances in metal 3D printing are driving innovation across a wide range of automotive applications and we are excited to work with Desktop Metal as part of our vision in adopting additive manufacturing at BMW,” said Uwe Higgen, Managing Partner of BMW i Ventures. “From rapid prototyping and printing exceptional quality parts for end-use production, to freedom of design and mass customization, Desktop Metal is shaping the way cars will be imagined, designed and manufactured.”
Google is not known for its work in the 3D printing industry, but GV, the venture arm of the American technology company, believes that the launch of the forthcoming Desktop Metal 3D printer will have a significant impact on the industry as a whole. With so much experience contributing to the Desktop Metal project, perhaps this is a sign that Google could soon become an important figure in additive manufacturing, as it is in so many other industries.
“The additive manufacturing industry is going through a dynamic evolution, and Desktop Metal is helping to shape that,” said Andy Wheeler, General Partner at GV. “The company has an impressive product vision, a proven team, and the right level of deep technical experience to bring the promise of metal 3D printing to life.”
Desktop Metal certainly appears to be heading the right direction, with a formidable team and a seemingly promising first 3D printer (about which we know incredibly little, technology-wise), but the company may have trouble marketing its corporation-backed 3D printer to a consumer market that steadfastly favors open-source and independent printer development. Nonetheless, the involvement and investment of several major companies seems to forecast success for Desktop Metal at the industrial 3D printing level.