Over the last few months, Manufacturing Disruption has published a series of articles describing opportunities created in the additive manufacturing / 3D printing industry and how VC firms can capitalize on these opportunities. The genesis of the research began with an independent project I began at London Business School during my Executive MBA and the more I got into the topic, the more promise it showed.

My research has shown four distinct strategies for value creation and capture arising from additive manufacturing technology, with corresponding opportunities across the venture capital industry, from small seed funds to corporate VC funds, all the way up to major top-tier firms. Each strategy is summarized below and includes links to in-depth articles:

Venture Capital Strategies for Additive Manufacturing (Part 4)

The long term success of any manufacturing technique is greatly coupled to users’ access and ability to make the most of the technique’s inherent advantages. Additive manufacturing / 3D printing is no different. So while the previous investment strategies outlined on Manufacturing Disruption (The (Printed) Full Stack, Reinventing the Hardware Startup and Innovating Internally – Corporate Venture Capital) focused on leveraging technological advantages, the final strategy is all about expanding access to additive manufacturing and helping users unleash its power. This strategy is approachable to many would-be entrepreneurs and is particularly attractive from the venture capitalist’s perspective as it is flexible, scalable and conforms to existing investment strategies already employed by many prominent VCs.

Stratasys strengthens Southeast Asian distribution channels and New Capital Fund II gets a new investor

After the excitement of last week, the advanced manufacturing funding scene has been relatively quiet, apart from the the 3D-printed rocket exploits of prominent venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson. That said, there were a couple stories worth noting:

botObjects acquired by 3D Systems and Rethink Robotics raises $26.6 million in Series D

botObjects cashes in on colorful innovation

On January 5, 3D Systems announced that they had acquired London-based botObjects, designers and manufacturers of the CubePro C, a color desktop 3D printer. When botObjects first announced the launch of their new printer in 2013, their claims of full-color 3D printing caused both excitement and disbelief in the additive manufacturing community. When the printer was finally revealed, botObject showed that it could achieve a color filament solution for PLA (plastic) extrusion using a five-color cartridge system. Each of the five filaments are a primary color (cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white) and by mixing in specific ratios (pre-deposition), the printer can print all the colors of the rainbow. It represents significant innovation beyond essentially open-source extrusion printing and is a good case study for value being created in the wake of Stratasys‘ original FDM patent expiration.

VC Firms Invest in Two Additive Manufacturing Startups Adding New Materials Capabilities

Within the past few days, various news sources have reported that two new additive manufacturing startups, Voxel8 and Impossible Objects, have received venture funding from Braemar Energy Ventures and OCA Ventures, respectively. While Cambridge (MA)-based Voxel8 is focused on printing embedded conductors, wires and batteries, Northbrook (IL)-based Impossible Objects is targeting composites, such as carbon fiber, fiberglass and kevlar. Their material palettes might be quite different, but the theme of the investments strikes the same note: there is much to be gained from the ability to print varied and complex materials.

Venture Capital Strategies for Additive Manufacturing (Part 3)

After examining the Full Stack and Reinventing the Hardware Startup, Manufacturing Disruption continues to explore emerging venture capital opportunities in the additive manufacturing space by taking a look inside traditional manufacturing companies.  A number of large companies, such as Lockheed Martin and GE Aviation, are already embracing the technology, but countless others are still waiting.  

The term “disruptive technology” is frequently (over) used when describing any new gadget or invention and the popular press’s description of additive manufacturing is no different. With a number of printer manufacturers targeting the consumer market, 3D printing has been hyped as a game changing technology, however, very little rigorous analysis has been undertaken in order to determine whether or not additive manufacturing can be accurately described as a disruptive technology. Rather than deferring to popular media hype, it is useful to refer to Clayton Christensen’s (who coined “disruptive technologies”) definition from “The Innovator’s Dilemma”: