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Exclusive: Formlabs acquires 3D printing startup Micronics mid-Kickstarter campaign



Exclusive: Formlabs acquires 3D printing startup Micronics mid-Kickstarter campaign

Formlabs on Thursday announced its acquisition of 3D printing firm Micronics. The Wisconsin-based startup is as plucky as they come, with a headcount of exactly two. Co-founders Henry Chan and Luke Boppart will be joining the more established firm, as Formlabs works to incorporate Micronics’ accessible SLS approach to 3D printing.

There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between the two. Formlabs was founded as an MIT spinout to significantly lower the barrier of entry for SLA printing — something that had previously been the sole realm of large and exorbitantly priced industrial system. Founded in 2021, Micronics is the product of recent grads who threw themselves into the problem of democratizing access to industrial printing tech.

SLA (stereolithography) is a form 3D printing that dates back to the 1980s. It utilizes a light source to harden liquid resin, one layer at a time. The tech is prized for its ability to generate extremely high-resolution prints, compared to those created with the FDM (fused deposition modeling) technology that dominates the desktop 3D printing market.

SLS (selective laser sintering) was invented at roughly the same time. The technology directs high-powered lasers at resin to create prints. The technology has found its share of industrial uses, due to its strength and speed. While Formlabs’ SLA systems have found a strong niche in the dental world, SLS has healthcare uses in the form of things like orthotics and prosthetics.

Formlabs has already explored SLS with its Fuse 1 printer, introduced back in 2017. While the system represents a step toward making the technology more accessible, it still costs around the same as a used car. The company believes that Micronics will take the technology the rest of the way there.

“With the Fuse 1, we made a 5x leap in starting price for SLS systems,” Formlabs founder and CEO Max Lobovsky told TechCrunch. “Micronics is trying to do another 5x beyond that.”

What this means for the future of the Fuse line remains unclear, though the companies confirmed with TechCrunch that the Micronics branding is going away.

Thus far, Micronics has done a lot with a little. The two-man operation has raised about $400,000 to date and built many of their own machining tools in-house, according to Chan. As of the time of publication, the company still has a couple of days left on a Kickstarter campaign that has raised more than $1.3 million on a $100,000 goal.

The timing of Thursday’s news is unusual in that respect, due to the extremely short timeline with which this all came together. Lobovsky and Chan first met three weeks ago. The pair crossed paths at this year’s Open Sauce maker event, which was held in the Bay Area on June 15 and 16.

“We started talking and we realized our vision is really well-aligned,” Chan said. “[With] two CEOs working together, things can happen very quickly.

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