Formlabs, an MIT Media Labs spin-out and maker of the high resolution Form 1 3D printer — which came up on Kickstarter (where it pulled in nearly $3 million in crowdfunding) — has closed a $19 million Series A, led by DFJ Growth. Pitango Venture Capital and Innovation Endeavors also participated in the round, along with “many returning angel investors”.
The funding round gives Formlabs considerable runway to keep building out a business, a few months after rival desktop 3D printer maker Makerbot was acquired by 3D industrial printing and manufacturing company Stratasys for $403 million. Makerbot now operates as a subsidiary of Stratasys.
Formlabs, which was founded in 2011, said it will be using the funding to expand its R&D, grow its global customer support and servicing, and develop new materials to print with. Software development is another focus: Formlabs said today it plans to launch version 1.0 of its PreForm 3D model-to-3D-print software soon.
Expansion is also on the cards for its own production facility, with the 3D printer maker in the midst of moving into an 11,000 squarefoot facility in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Formlabs previously raised $1.8 million in seed funding, before taking its prototype to Kickstarter and pulling in enough cash to go into production. One year after its Kickstarter campaign, it said it has shipped more than 900 of its 3D printers to backers around the world, and is approaching fulfillment of all the original Kickstarter campaign rewards.
As interest in additive manufacturing builds, more startups are pushing in to attack the 3D printer space from various different angles and price-points. Many of these newcomers taking their printer prototypes to crowdfunding sites are looking to offer a cheaper desktop 3D printer, and/or simplify the 3D print experience, to make it more consumer friendly.
At present Formlabs is unashamedly high end with its pricing — costing more than Makerbot’s Replicator ($2,199) for instance. The $3,299 Form 1’s relatively high price-tag (for a desktop 3D printer) is justified by Formlabs’ focus on high resolution printing.
The Form 1 works by shining a laser onto a metal surface through a layer of resin, using a process called photopolymerization. This results in higher print precision, meaning 3D printed objects can have finer detail.
While Formlabs’ resin-based approach is not cheap, it is serving what is likely to be a growing demand for high quality 3D prints as more lower cost machines enter the market, littering it with lower resolution and therefore poorer quality 3D prints.
Asked if it plans to expand into cheaper tiered segments of the desktop 3D printer market in future, the company told TechCrunch: “We’re focusing on making the Form 1 the best possible desktop printer out there, right now. We’ll definitely be exploring more of the market as we grow, but we’re keeping our focus on what we do best right now. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”