“At a Critical Juncture,” Desktop Metal Gets $160M From Koch Fund

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated 11:41 am ET. See below.] Desktop Metal, a metal 3D-printing company, has raised $160 million in a funding round led by the technology arm of Koch Industries, the multinational industrial conglomerate owned by billionaire philanthropists and right-leaning political donors Charles and David Koch.

With the Series E funding from Koch Disruptive Technologies and other investors, Burlington, MA-based Desktop Metal says it has now raised a total of $438 million in venture capital financing since launching in 2015.

Chase Koch, president of Koch Disruptive Technologies and Charles Koch’s son, says in a prepared statement Desktop Metal’s prototyping and production systems have ” disruptive implications for manufacturers like Koch Industries. … We are very bullish about the prospects of Desktop Metal, not just as an investor, but also as a customer and partner.”

Koch Disruptive Technologies joins a long list of investors in Desktop Metal: New Enterprise Associates, GV (formerly Google Ventures), GE Ventures, Future Fund, Techtronic Industries, Lowe’s, Lux Capital, Vertex Ventures, Moonrise Venture Partners, Panasonic, DCVC Opportunity, Tyche Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Shenzhen Capital Group, Saudi Aramco, Ford Motor Company, BMW i Ventures, and Stratasys.

Ric Fulop, co-founder and CEO of Desktop Metal, says in a prepared statement the funding will help the business keep up with growing orders and finance research and development.

“We are at a critical juncture in the advancement of metal 3D printing and additive manufacturing,” Fulop adds.

Desktop Metal so far has two products. One is a desktop “studio” model that moves metal prototyping into the engineer’s office. The desktop 3D printing has long been possible with plastic 3D printers but becomes more complicated when working with metal due to power requirements, special gas requirements, and safety concerns. The other product is a larger mass production models. Desktop Metal claims this high-output model will be the fastest metal “printing press” available when it starts shipping out to customers in the first quarter of 2019, the company says. The production model has been waylaid by delays. In July 2017, Desktop Metal predicted it would hit markets sometime in 2018. [Added background about delays.]

Fulop, who founded lithium-ion company A123 Systems before co-founding Desktop Metal said at a conference in the fall his company had a “nine-figure backlog” for its products.

“When we started the company, the problem was that a metal printer at that time was over half a million dollars—and approaching a million dollars fully installed,” Fulop said during a keynote presentation at The Engine’s Tough Tech Summit in October. “That’s too much money to spend for prototyping and the systems were way to slow for mass production.”

Early customers of Desktop Metal’s prototyping printer include Nike, John Deere, ProtoLabs, 3M, Owens Corning, TerraPower, BMW, Ball, Ford, Medtronic, Stanley Black & Decker, L’Oréal, Boston Scientific, Goodyear, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, Google, Moen, Toyota, and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

In October, Desktop Metal settled a trade secrets dispute it had with Watertown, MA-based competitor Markforged. Fulop and the company have some shared history; he once invested in Markforged and served on its board of directors before he left to start Desktop Metal. Fulop is no longer on Markforged’s board, and the terms of the settlement between the companies remains confidential.

Desktop Metal last announced funding in March 2018 when it took in $65 million in a round led by Ford. The company said then it had 225 employees and a portfolio of more than a hundred pending patent applications.