Venture capital seems to be onboard with the fourth industrial revolution.
As the proud poster children for the tech-driven wave of change, industrial 3D printing companies have raised big dollars in the last few years, with Burlington, MA-based Desktop Metal in a $160 million funding round in January. And now Watertown, MA-based Markforged has punched its ticket by raking in $82 million in a Series D funding round.
Boston-based Summit Partners led the investment in Markforged, which makes printers that churn out products made of metal and composites reinforced with carbon fiber, fiberglass, and other materials. The round boosts Markforged’s total venture haul to $137 million since its founding in 2013. The company last raised capital in November 2017 with a $30 million financing round led by Siemens.
The capital is set to speed up Markforged’s “product roadmap,” including the introduction of a high-output printer and additional materials.
Markforged founder and CEO Greg Mark isn’t giving a timeframe for the rollout of its mass production printer. But he was more forthcoming on the materials front.
In six to 12 months, more metals will be available, including A2 tool steel, D2 tool steel, 316L stainless steel, nickel superalloy Inconel 625, titanium, and copper; for composites there will be a flame-retardant material that Mark says should interest aerospace, automotive, and defense markets.
Even as Markforged and other industrial 3D printing companies boast that the industry’s backers use the product and that thousands of other users have printed more than a million parts, it’s difficult to tell how and when the technology has taken or will take root in the manufacturing sector to the extent the CNC machine or lathe cut its way into industrial history.
That said, estimates by Deloitte predict that sales by the 3D printing industry to large public companies alone will hit $2.7 billion in 2019 and will top $3 billion in 2020. (The consulting firm soberly compared that to the $12 trillion in global manufacturing sales.) The companies booking those sales have battled through feverish early hype around the technology: Carbon 3D, 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), Desktop Metal, Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS), EOS, Formlabs, Arcam, Protolabs, Shapeways, Markforged, and others.
Amid the competition, Markforged decided to manufacture all of its metal 3D printers from Watertown, far from a low-cost locale. Mark says the decision to keep the manufacturing close to the company HQ has made it “more efficient to close the loop between engineering and production” and has accelerated new product introductions.
“This is well worth the tradeoffs,” he says.
Mark sees the challenge ahead for Markforged as being able to keep focus while it is in “hypergrowth,” trying to hire all the right people and get products out the door.
“The biggest challenge for any company in hypergrowth is not losing sight of the culture, values, customers, and people that got you there to begin with,” Mark says.
Markforged says the round was backed also by a group of existing strategic and financial partners, including Matrix Partners, Microsoft Ventures, Next47, and Porsche SE.