Just like the creations which emerge from their printers, 3D Systems is incrementally growing. The high-end 3D printer maker is continuing its effort to acquire companies that will enable it to break into the consumer market. Their latest acquisition is Bespoke Innovations which uses 3D printing to manufacture custom-made – and singularly beautiful – prosthetic limbs.
Industries such as automotive, aerospace, architectural, and dental have been using 3D Systems for rapid prototyping for decades. Their high-performance printers cost between $10,000 and $100,000 and can have micrometers-scale precision. But with new intentions to enter the consumer market, the company has put forth a concerted effort to acquire companies to help them make the shift – up to 24 companies in the past two years. This past April they acquired My Robot Nation, a California-based startup born just this past December that allows you to design your own robots and print them at home. Now, 3D Systems diversifies their capabilities further with prosthetics fabricator Bespoke Innovations.
But these aren’t your average prosthetics. Bespoke’s vision is to provide amputees with prosthetics that aren’t just functional but also beautiful to look at. And they really put a lot of thought and care into their approach. Breaking the mold of how prosthetics are normally made, they measure the intact leg, arm, hand, etc. so that the dimensions of the prosthetic can match. And the amputee gets to pick from a selection of designs and work with engineers to ensure that they’re (very) happy with the final product.
Bespoke’s scan-to-print technologies will be integrated into 3D Systems’ growing suite of healthcare solutions. Right now Bespoke only uses 3D printing for outer moldings, but 3D Systems is putting some R & D into developing prosthetics that are entirely printed. 3D is ‘fast tracking’ Bespoke in order to make their products commercially available as quickly as possible, but they don’t expect the new company to generate revenue before the end of 2012.
3D Systems and Summit are taking a big picture view of what 3D printing will mean to the future of manufacturing and the American economy. If, as they say, “it is manufacturing with a mouse click instead of hammers, nails, and well, workers,” the savings from moving facilities to China no longer applies. By reshaping the entire manufacturing industry they think 3D printing has the potential to help reshore manufacturing back to the US and help revive the American economy. Given the ardor with which 3D Systems is seeking to expand their 3D printing market share (revenues increased last year 44 percent from the previous year to $230 million), seems like they want to be the ones to do it.
[image credits: Bespoke Innovations]
images: Bespoke Innovations