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3D Printing Public Offerings Flopped, But Venture Funding Still Flows To The Space

Illustration of paper airplane made from money

It’s true that 3D printing technology can produce tons of cool and essential stuff, from airplane parts to custom dental implants to cutlery. But one thing recently public upstarts in the space have proven they can’t print is money.

Rather, like most tech companies that made market debuts during the go-go days of 2020-21, 3D printing brands have been getting clobbered in recent quarters.

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How far down? Per Crunchbase analysis, at least six venture-funded companies focused on or tied to 3D printing carried out public offerings in the past two years. All are trading well below their initial valuations, as we chart out below:

Fast Radius files for bankruptcy

The worst performer on the list, Chicago-based Fast Radius, announced Tuesday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move comes just nine months after going public through a SPAC merger at an initial market valuation of $1.4 billion.

Fast Radius, which provides software and manufacturing offerings for engineers to design and make commercial grade parts, counted UPS and Drive Capital as lead venture backers and Goldman Sachs as a post-IPO investor. It attributes its current financial woes to “headwinds in the capital markets” that “have inhibited our ability to adequately put in place the capital structure needed.”

The fast downfall of Fast Radius has wiped out pretty much its entire market cap. Shares are currently down over 99% from the offer price, with broad expectations they’ll go to zero.

But that’s not all

Other 3D printing players are down too, including two Massachusetts companies — Desktop Metal and Markforged — that launched some of the larger offerings.

Desktop Metal, the first one on our list to go public, has shed over $1.75 billion from its market cap since making its debut in December 2020. Shares took a further beating after the company’s Q3 earnings report, released Wednesday, showed both a wider-than-expected loss and lower-than-expected revenue.

Markforged, meanwhile, posted earnings the same day, revealing year-over-year revenue growth of just 5% plus a wider net loss. The company has already shed over four-fifths its value since making its market debut following a SPAC merger in July 2021.

Meanwhile, the best performer on our list — Maryland-based Xometry — is also the one with the loosest ties to 3D printing. The company, down 41% since going public last year, offers a platform for on-demand manufactured parts that may be produced through 3D printing as well as CNC machining, die casting and other processes.

It’s not just market newcomers with ties to 3D printing that are performing poorly. The ARK 3D Printing ETF, a portfolio of companies with ties to the space, is down over 40% this year.

Venture funding still flows

But looking at the funding tallies for 2022, it doesn’t appear that startup investors have turned fully bearish on the 3D printing space.

Using Crunchbase data, we put together a sample set of 15 companies tied to the sector that have raised seed through late-stage funding this year.

Some raised very large rounds, including:

  • Austin, Texas-based Icon, a construction technology company known for its 3D-printed homes, led the pack with a $185 million Series B extension in February, bringing total funding to over $450 million.
  • Tel Aviv-based Redefine Meat, which employs 3D printing in production of its plant-based meat alternatives, raised $135 million in a January round.
  • Los Angeles-based SprintRay, a 3D printer manufacturer that focuses on digital dentistry, raised $100 million in an October Series D.

Big name VCs are also still active in the space. Tiger Global, for instance, led Icon’s large February financing, while SoftBank Vision Fund backed SprintRay’s Series D.

Exits? We’ll just have to wait

Looking at the terrible performance of recent public market entrants with ties to 3D printing, it’s probably not an opportune time for the latest big funding recipients to plan debuts. Nor, for that matter, is anyone focused on 3D printing likely to pull off a big IPO right now.

Still, there’s something inherently alluring about the space, as anyone who’s watched a video of Icon printing its iconic 3D home can attest. Looking more broadly at funded startups in the 3D printing space, it’s easy to walk away with the impression that our world would be a much cooler place if these kinds of innovations were happening at scale.

For now, however, public markets don’t seem to be sharing in that enthusiasm.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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