By now you know that two major players in the 3D printing market have shaken things up a bit. 3D Systems has added Z Corporation to its list of acquisitions, which now number 22 that the company has made in the past couple of years. Do I say “another one bites the dust?” Or is this good news for the industry? I have mixed feelings.
At first glance, it’s a good move for 3D Systems. In addition to the benefits Abe Reichental, President and CEO, mentioned in the press release, 3D Systems can now claim 3D printing products in the mid-price range of $15,000 to $50,000. Plus it now has a strong access to the architecture market thanks to ZCorp’s progress there. And it now has an entry into the 3D scanner segment of rapid prototyping. I asked Mr. Reichental at the investor webcast if he was going to support ZCorp’s scanners (which come from an arrangement with Creaform) and Mr. Reichental was enthusiastic about having these scanners as part of the package.
But I’m not so sure this is good for the Additive Manufacturing market. There’s one less player on the field. Even though AM is more than 20 years old, it’s a bit early for consolidation.
Some are questioning whether 3D Systems is attempting a consolidation or whether it is trying to build out its portfolio. Mr. Reichental did make an interesting comment in the webcast, that additive manufacturing will replace traditional design and manufacturing solutions, so perhaps this is what they are trying to do. On the other hand, this could be a move to build up stockholder value.
Mr. Reichental did comment that now is the time to slow acquisitions and integrate all them, but 22? By any standard, that’s a lot of integration that will have to go on. Some obvious questions come up: Will key players in each of the acquisitions remain or will they move on to new companies, challenges, opportunities, etc? You know there will be press releases in about a year that discuss streamlining of systems and processes to eliminate duplication and unnecessary redundancy.
My hope is that these moves will build up the industry; spur new creative developments and efforts. My fear is that this could do just the opposite.