Xaar has agreed terms with Stratasys to sell its remaining interest in the Xaar 3D subsidiary that it set up with Stratasys to develop its high speed sintering approach to 3D printing.
High speed sintering is quite an interesting process and does offer the potential for high volume cost effective manufacturing, as I’ve covered in an earlier story. Xaar had originally planned to develop this itself, setting up a 3D print division at the Nottingham Science Park in 2017. However, by 2018 Xaar realised that it would need a partner to bring the technology to market and to provide further investment so this division was converted into a separate subsidiary as a joint venture with Stratasys, which initially owned 15% leaving Xaar with 85%.
That original agreement gave Stratasys the option to increase its holding to 30%. In 2019 it exercised this option and also bought a bigger stake in the venture for an additional $10 million, leaving it with 45% of Xaar 3D. That agreement also gave Stratasys a further option to acquire the remaining 55% for at least US$ 33 million at some point over the next three years, with Stratasys also paying Xaar 2% annually of the revenue associated with Xaar 3D for 15 years up to a total of US$ 10 million.
Now, usually when two companies make an announcement such as this, they coordinate that announcement and each issue identical press releases. Strangely, they have taken a different approach in this case. Stratasys has renamed the HSS technology as SAF and its announcement refers to the first SAF printer, the Stratasys H350, which is currently installed at several beta sites and which I will write about in more detail later this year.
Dr Yoav Zeif, Stratasys CEO, says that the company is committed to providing production-scale polymer 3D printing, adding, “The H350 printer and SAF technology are central to that mission, giving us a powerful platform for meeting the needs of customers in industries such as commercial goods, automotive, consumer goods, and consumer electronics. Customers tell us this technology’s consistent performance at higher volumes helps them grow their businesses and provides them a significant competitive advantage. We are excited to welcome the outstanding team of innovators from Xaar 3D to the Stratasys family.”
Meanwhile, the Xaar press release simply notes that Xaar 3D has made progress this year but that development has been affected by the pandemic and that the business would potentially require more investment than originally planned. It’s perhaps worth noting that Xaar originally hoped to have a production HSS printer by late 2018. In any case, this agreement does provide Xaar with a welcome injection of extra cash.
John Mills, Xaar’s Chief Executive Officer, commented, “This agreement will provide Xaar 3D Ltd with the best opportunity to continue its progress and leadership in the field of industrial 3D printing. We have enjoyed our partnership with Stratasys and look forward to continuing to work with them to supply printheads to Xaar 3D and share in the long-term success of the business. The agreement will also allow us to focus on our core business and other opportunities in the market that will support our long-term growth strategy.”
However, this does not mean that Xaar has completely exited the 3D printing market. The company will continue to sell its printheads to 3D vendors, including Xaar 3D, as well as Voxeljet, which has also developed its own high speed sintering printers. It’s also clear from recent product launches that Xaar takes the needs of the 3D print market into account when developing new printheads, and in continuing to push its high viscosity capabilities.
It’s also worth noting that 3D printing is more or less following the trajectory of commercial and industrial printing, starting with short run applications and moving into longer run manufacturing. There are several different approaches to 3D printing but some of these are difficult to scale up to high volume applications because of the cost of core components such as lasers. Inkjet, on the other hand, lends itself to an easy transition from low to high volume production and is one of the reasons why Xaar was so keen to get into the 3D market in the first place.
This article by Nessan Cleary first appeared in the Printing and Manufacturing Journal and is reproduced by permission. www.nessancleary.co.uk