Independent 3D printing services strengthen supply chains


With pandemic-bound supply chains, port issues, and shipping challenges, independent 3D printing services have had the chance to show their value and thrive.

Ilene Wolff

They made sure that the opportunity paid off.

Independent 3D printing service providers, known for their automated and AI-enabled online platforms, recorded $ 5.27 billion in sales in 2020, an increase of 7.1% from the previous year. previous year, according to the Wohlers 2021 report.

At least two of the services have also undergone major changes this year. One of them is Xometry Inc., Rockville, Maryland, which was established eight years ago and went public in 2021. Xometry founders Randy Altschuler, who is also CEO, and Laurence Zuriff, have found their inspiration at Amazon.

“The global demand for efficiency and speed has somehow escaped one of the world’s largest and most important industries, on-demand manufacturing,” says letter they filed with Securities and Exchange Commission prior to the initial public offering of Xometry. “When we founded Xometry in 2013, the industry was localized and hardly digitized. … Our vision was simple. If there was a convenient online market for the books people write and read, why wouldn’t there be a similar market for the products people make and use? “

In the same file, the co-founders attributed an increase in revenue to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the third quarter of 2020. “This is a bit surprising because last year was not a good year for a lot of businesses, “some with revenues down 50%,” Wohlers Report editor Terry Wohlers said in an interview.

The print services market is growing

Hubs, Amsterdam, which was acquired by digital maker Protolabs Inc., Maple Plain, Minn. In a $ 280 million deal, joins the evolving Xometry this year.

Like Xometry, Hubs (formerly 3D Hubs) was established in 2013 and also connects buyers and sellers of CNC machining, injection molding, and sheet metal fabrication, in addition to 3D printing.

Unlike Xometry, however, Hubs owed its early years to DIY enthusiasts. The online platform caused a stir in 2015 when it added industrial 3D printing. “What will happen is that the HD service will start to absorb all the work and the smaller operators (on which the hubs were built) will get nothing and will eventually disappear,” complained a member.

Evolution of the platform

That’s pretty much what happened, according to online posts from the co-founders. In 2018, company co-founder Brian Garret wrote, “As the platform has grown from a peer-to-peer 3D printing network to a full manufacturing platform, the foundation of Hubs customers has changed. The majority of orders now come from professionals who source parts for larger, high-value engineering projects. He added that “we are making the difficult decision to move away from our original peer-to-peer model and fully focus on B2B.”

What has happened is that the “exponential growth” of CNC services has shown hubs that the growth opportunities are greater than with 3D printing alone, according to a 2018 article published by the founders. They added injection molding (and later sheet metal working) to provide customers with a platform of services throughout product development and offered quality assurance. “By combining the quality assurance of a centralized supplier with the cost and time benefits of our distributed manufacturing network, we are in a unique position to change the manufacturing industry. We look forward to working with all who will join us on this journey, ”wrote Bram de Zwart, CEO and Co-Founder, and Garret.

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