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3D Systems buys Z Corp.

Article-3D Systems buys Z Corp.

In a major development in additive manufacturing, rapidly growing 3D Systems is acquiring Z Corp. (Burlington, MA), an MIT-licensee that is the leader in multi-color inkjet 3D printing.

In a major development in additive manufacturing, rapidly growing 3D Systems is acquiring Z Corp. (Burlington, MA), an MIT-licensee that is the leader in multi-color inkjet 3D printing.

Black & Decker made this multi-color model with a Z Corp. printer.
3D Systems says it is the first company capable of delivering an integrated platform of mixed 3D printing technologies, 3D content, and 3D design services.

The news is part of a wider announcement today in which the Contex Group, a subsidiary of Ratos AB, announced that it had signed an agreement to sell its subsidiaries, Z Corp. and VIDAR Systems, to 3D Systems Corp. for $137 million in cash. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

 "Our vision is to help designers create more ideas, more communication, and more innovation; and joining 3D Systems enables to us deliver on that promise even faster," said Z Corp. CEO John Kawola. "We intend to make multi-color 3D printing accessible to far more designers, provide a more complete customer experience, rapidly advance new applications, and build the foundation for a new generation of Z Corporation innovations."

"This is a strategic fit for both businesses that will expand our capabilities in product development, channel coverage, manufacturing and marketing," said Abe Reichental, president and CEO of 3D Systems.

Major acquisitions push

Behind the press release is the creation of a potential 800-pound gorilla in the additive manufacturing world.

3D Systems created additive manufacturing (then widely referred to as rapid prototyping) in 1986 when Chuck Hull invented stereolithography, a system in which three-dimensional models can be rapidly made from a CAD file by etching a pattern on a photopolymer bath in minute layers. The technology has extended broadly to include additive manufacturing with metals and a wide range of plastics. One of the biggest changes was

Cathy Lewis of 3D Systems shows parts made from a Bits from Bytes printer.
the development of three-dimensional printing, the type of technology practiced by Z Corp.

In the last two years, 3D Systems has made 23 acquisitions, building a powerful position that runs the gamut from design and prototyping services to full-scale machines that build parts in a variety of materials.

The company's growth in the printer end of the market is particularly interesting.   Last year, 3D Systems bought Bits from Bytes and established a beachhead in the "maker's revolution" of individuals and entrepreneurs who want to make stuff quickly and inexpensively with plastics. The  company's 3D printer technology--prior to the Z acqusition-- is  based on six unique print engines: stereolithography or SLA printers, selective laser sintering or SLS printers, multi-jet modeling (MJMtm) printers, film transfer imaging (FTI) printers, selective laser melting (SLM) printers and plastic jet printers (PJP).

Last year, 3D Systems (Rock Hill, SC) earned $159.9 million, up from $112.8 million in 2009. The company spent $20.8 million on acqusitions in 2010. Investors aren't sure of what to make of all the action at 3D Systems. Its stock price swung from $10.50 to $34.30 per share during 2010. Its current stock price is $18.13.

3-D Systems recent acquisitions

Desktop Factory
Acu-Cast Technologies
AdvaTech Manufacturing

Moeller Design & Development
Design Prototyping Technologies
Express Pattern
Bits From Bytes

National RP Support
Freedom Of Creation
Huntsman SL materials
Z Corp.

TAGS: Business
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