Foundry Group, Autodesk Lead $35M Deal With Formlabs in 3D Printing

Here’s the classic life cycle of an emerging technology: a big hype curve, a trough of disillusionment, and then slow but steady adoption. 3D printing looks to be right on schedule.

Now, one of the leading startups in the sector is solidifying its position for the long haul. Formlabs, based in Somerville, MA, said today it has raised a $35 million Series B venture round led by Colorado-based Foundry Group, a new investor in the company. Another notable new investor and partner is Autodesk, the design software powerhouse headquartered in the Bay Area.

Formlabs and Autodesk plan to “strategically collaborate on software integration and joint marketing initiatives,” according to a press release. It sounds like this will include teaming up to deliver new products in desktop 3D printing. “We’re eager to work together to improve digital design and manufacturing for product designers everywhere,” Autodesk CEO Carl Bass says in a prepared statement.

Formlabs has released two versions of its desktop 3D printer. Its most recent release came last September. Meanwhile, Autodesk makes its own desktop 3D printer, called Ember, which uses open-source electronics and firmware.

The 3D printing market has suffered from years of hype, but there are signs of recovery. The stock prices of leaders such as Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) and 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) have stabilized this year after falling for most of 2015.

For its part, Formlabs says it has had 100 percent growth in annual sales for three straight years and is now shipping more than a thousand printers a month. Earlier this year, the company acquired Pinshape, an online marketplace for 3D designs.

Formlabs got started in 2011 by a trio of MIT Media Lab alums. CEO Max Lobovsky was one of them. The company ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and also survived a patent lawsuit by 3D Systems; the companies reached a settlement in 2014. To date, Formlabs has raised a total of $55 million from investors and has grown to more than 190 employees.

Foundry Group co-founder Brad Feld is joining Formlabs’ board as part of the new financing. Having previously invested in MakerBot and Glowforge, Feld knows the world of 3D printers and related devices. “While the excitement and hype around consumer 3D printing has waned, the professional 3D printing category has had unabated demand,” he says in a prepared statement. He calls Formlabs a “key pioneer” in professional desktop 3D printing.

It’s still a very crowded field. Other notable 3D printing companies include Desktop Metal, Rize, NVBots, Voxel8, Mcor Technologies, and Shapeways.

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