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Digital Resilience: How the 3D printing industry is resisting the economic crisis

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and its economic consequences have led to international cuts and disinvestments in the innovation sector. However, there are exceptions to this trend in additive manufacturing.

Most countries are expecting a recession in 2020, and many companies are suffering from severe revenue losses – a circumstance that leads to cuts in innovation budgets in many cases. While traditional industries, such as aviation and automotive, are currently particularly hard-hit by the negative economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, industries with a higher degree of digitization are significantly more stable. Some highly digitized companies were even able to increase their sales and stock-market values in this turbulent year. The additive manufacturing industry is at the interface between digital and traditional industries. The trend of many international players investing in 3D printing is also visible here.

International positive trend

In the spring of this year, Align Technology (www.aligntech.com) announced the successful takeover of Exocad (www.exocad.com), which specializes in AM software solutions. Unimpressed by the impending crisis, the specialist for 3D-printed dental solutions invested 376 million euros in this expansion and significantly increased its market value. The leading venture-capital company for additive manufacturing, AM Ventures (www.amventures.com), also reported impressive investments this year. Together with other investors, they invested a total of 35 million US dollars in four 3D-printing companies. The Boston-based company LightForce Orthodontics (www.lightforceortho.com) secured an investment of 14 million US dollars. LightForce manufactures personalized braces that are designed for individual patients via a digital platform in cooperation with orthodontists and produced using 3D printing. With the platform’s help and customized products, tooth-correction efficiency is significantly increased and treatment time is reduced. The Munich-based company DyeMansion (www.dyemansion.com) – a provider of finishing systems for industrial 3D printing –also secured a financing round of 14 million US dollars. Berlin-based AM software company 3YOURMIND (www.3yourmind.com) was pleased to receive over 5.5 million US dollars. And Dresden-based company Additive Drives, which specializes in the additive manufacturing of electric motor components, received a seed investment of over 1.5 million US dollars. Arno Held, chief venture officer at AM Ventures, is hardly surprised that investments are being made in additive manufacturing right now. ‘Additive manufacturing is a key technology for the future, and the current situation, in particular, shows how important alternatives to conventional supply chains are,’ says Held.

Austria continues to focus on expansion

Even if the COVID-19 crisis’s economic consequences cannot yet be conclusively assessed, many domestic AM companies are also continuing to expand. One example is the Austrian company CADS Additive (www.cads-additive.com), manufacturer of high-performance software for AM processes. The Austrian company announced a new cooperation with EOS (www.eos.info), a world-leading technology supplier in the industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers. CADS Additive’s software AM-Studio and AM-Studio for Creo® is now also offered for EOS metal systems, alongside other well-known machine manufacturers.

‘The direct access to EOS and its renowned AM devices is a milestone in our young history and symbolizes our success, which we have already achieved in this partly dominated market,’ says Dr Daniel Stadlmayr, head of operations at CADS Additive. ‘The direct partnership with EOS makes CADS Additive a unique software solution provider in the AM environment.’

Arno Held sees Austria’s situation in line with the international trend: ‘Our Austrian investments are also coming through the crisis strongly,’ he confirms.