3D Systems Acquires London-Based 3D Printer Startup BotObjects

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Just a few days in and right on cue for CES, 2015 has already seen some consolidation in the burgeoning 3D printer space. Publicly listed and South Carolina, U.S.-based 3D Systems has announced it’s acquired the London-based 3D colour printer startup BotObjects.

Terms of the acquisition remain undisclosed, but 3D Systems, a very early player in 3D printing, says it expects the acquisition to be accretive to its 2015 results — looking in from the outside, however, this looks a lot like an acqui-hire and patent/technology acquisition, rather than a home run for BotObjects’ founders and backers.

To that end, 3D Systems has also announced that BotObjects’ ‘ProDesk3D’ full colour 3D printer is being folded into its new CubePro C printer line to deliver a “true full-color experience at the affordable price of $4,990”, offering greater accuracy and speed than competitors. That claim, however, should be tempered with BotObjects’ (and to a lesser extend, 3D Systems’) recent track record of actually shipping product.

The London startup’s ProDesk3D, as innovative as the full colour 3D printing technology appeared, has faced many delays, leading some to colour it vapourware. TechCrunch finally got an exclusive look at the printer in action in February last year, although I’ve heard of one person who has since returned the device as it didn’t work properly.

In fact, scaling production seems to have been an open problem for BotObjects. In a statement, Martin Warner, co-founder and CEO, BotObjects, said: “Joining the winning team at 3DS couldn’t have come at a better time as orders for our revolutionary full-color desktop printer continue to outstrip our resources. Together we can bring this powerful technology to more users faster.”

It also plans to fulfill all of BotObjects’ current backorders for the recently introduced ProDesk3D. Furthermore, until the company expands its manufacturing capacity, 3D Systems says the CubePro C will be available in a limited release, with plans to expand distribution later in 2015.

Meanwhile, Warner, who also founded the London tech conference, Tech Entrepreneurs Week, will become Vice President, General Manager BotObjects for 3DS. And my understanding is that the startup’s other founder and CTO, Mike Duma — and “inventor” of ProDesk3D — is also staying on.