Desktop Metal Gets $45M From GV, BMW, & Lowe’s, Preps Product Launch
Desktop Metal is one of the better-funded Boston-area startups without a product on the market. But it plans to change that this year, and now the company has even more cash to help get its initial metal 3D printing system across the finish line.
Today, Desktop Metal announced it raised a $45 million Series C round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), as well as the corporate venture arms of automaker BMW and home improvement retailer Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW). Burlington, MA-based Desktop Metal has hauled in $97 million total from investors since it was founded in October 2015. Its backers also include NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, GE Ventures, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing giant Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS).
Desktop Metal says it will use the new funds to further develop its technology and ramp up production as it gets ready to launch its product some time in 2017. The company has said it is working to create a much smaller and cheaper metal-making 3D printer that it would sell to big manufacturers and small engineering firms.
“Advances in metal 3D printing are driving innovation across a wide range of automotive applications, and we are excited to work with Desktop Metal as part of our vision in adopting additive manufacturing at BMW,” said Uwe Higgen, managing partner at BMW i Ventures, in a prepared statement. “From rapid prototyping and printing exceptional quality parts for end-use production, to freedom of design and mass customization, Desktop Metal is shaping the way cars will be imagined, designed, and manufactured.”
The 3D printing sector has introduced desktop machines that cost a few thousand dollars and can print objects made of lighter materials, like plastic and paper. Those items are often used as molds for creating metal parts.
But metal-making 3D printers are out of reach for many manufacturing businesses (let alone individual engineers and hobbyists) because they are bulky, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, suck up massive amounts of gases and industrial-scale electricity in order to run, require permits to operate, and use powerful—and potentially dangerous—lasers, Desktop Metal co-founder and CEO Ric Fulop has said.
He previously told Xconomy that his company’s printers will employ a “completely different” process that won’t use lasers. The goal is to produce a device that is “office friendly,” can sit on a desk, and works with the touch of a button—no special personnel required to operate.
As of April 2016, Desktop Metal had built a working prototype, Fulop told Xconomy at the time. Now, the company intends to put the finishing touches on its product and try to win over customers. Desktop Metal still has a lot to prove, but investors are betting it has the right team, technology, and strategy to deliver on its vision.
Fulop previously co-founded advanced battery maker A123 Systems and later was a general partner at North Bridge Venture Partners, where he led investments in 3D printing firm MarkForged and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software company Onshape. His fellow team members have backgrounds at SolidWorks, Kiva Systems, MIT, and more, and have expertise in materials science, engineering, and software. Desktop Metal says it employs about 80 people (pictured above).