3D Systems Corporation

3D Systems Corporation
3D systems
Headquartered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 3D Systems is a leading provider of 3D content-to-print solutions including 3D printers using several different technologies, print materials and on-demand custom parts services for professionals and consumers alike with materials ranging from thermoplastics, metals, ceramics and edible sugar. The company also provides software design tools including CAD, reverse engineering and inspection and consumer 3D printers, apps and services.

Profile Description

3D Systems is one of the largest manufacturers of 3D printers. Its founder, Chuck Hull, invented SLA technology in 1986.

In fact, 3D Systems launched the 3D printing industry in 1986 and has been leading additive manufacturing innovation ever since. Our broad portfolio of hardware, software, and material solutions spans from plastics to metals, and is backed by industry-specific engineering expertise housed in our Applications Innovation Group. We take a consultative, application-focused approach to solving your most difficult design and production challenges. The combination of our solutions, expertise, and innovation helps our users defy conventional manufacturing limitations and maximize the value of additive manufacturing. 

Headquartered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, with offices, manufacturing facilities, and Customer Innovation Centers around the globe, 3D Systems has the expertise and resources to advance industries.

3D Systems was established in Valencia, California by Chuck Hull, who is renowned as the inventor and holder of the first patent for the initial stereolithography (SLA) rapid prototyping system. Before Hull introduced SLA rapid prototyping, creating concept models was a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. The introduction of SLA innovation significantly reduced the resources required for this process while enhancing the quality and precision of the resulting models. However, early SLA systems were intricate and costly, necessitating extensive redesigns before achieving commercial viability. These challenges primarily revolved around hydrodynamic and chemical complications. In 1996, the introduction of solid-state lasers enabled Hull and his team to reformulate their materials. Engineers in the transportation, healthcare, and consumer products sectors played a significant role in driving the early stages of 3D Systems’ research and development in rapid prototyping. These industries continue to be key supporters of 3D Systems’ technology.

In late 2001, the company initiated an acquisitions program that expanded the company’s technological capabilities by acquiring software, materials, printers, and printable content. This strategy also provided access to the expertise of engineers and designers. The rapid pace of 3D Systems’ acquisitions, with 16 in 2011 alone, raised questions about the management challenges facing the company. Some observers saw these acquisitions as a deliberate effort by 3D Systems to consolidate the 3D printing industry under a single umbrella and brand, aiming to provide end-to-end solutions in the scan/create-to-print chain.

In 2003, Chuck Hull was succeeded by Avi Reichental. Both Hull and Reichental were recognized among the top twenty most influential figures in rapid technologies by TCT Magazine. Hull continued to actively contribute to the company as a board member and held the position of Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President. In 2005, 3D Systems relocated its headquarters to Rock Hill, South Carolina, citing favorable business conditions, a sustained lower cost of operations, and significant investment and tax benefits as reasons for the move.

In May 2011, the company transitioned from NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange. In 2012, a report suggested that 3D Systems’ rapid growth might be unsustainable, attributing this perception to inflated impressions resulting from acquisitions, which potentially distorted the company’s organic growth. 3D Systems responded to this article by claiming it contained materially false statements that had a negative impact on the company’s reputation and shareholders.

In January 2014, the company acquired Gentle Giant, a collectibles company based in Burbank, CA, known for creating three-dimensional representations of characters from popular franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, and The Lord of the Rings. In July 2014, the company acquired Israeli medical imaging firm Simbionix for $120,000,000. In September 2014, 3D Systems added to its portfolio by acquiring LayerWise, a Belgium-based provider of direct metal 3D printing and manufacturing services.

In January 2015, 3D Systems acquired botObjects, a 3D printer manufacturer known for its full-color printer using the fused filament fabrication technique. This acquisition was led by Martin Warner (CEO) and Mike Duma (CTO). In April 2015, 3D Systems expanded further by acquiring the Chinese Easyway Group, resulting in the creation of 3D Systems China, a 3D printing sales and service provider with operations in multiple Chinese cities.

In October 2015, Avi Reichental stepped down as the president and CEO, temporarily replaced by the company’s chief legal officer, Andrew Johnson. Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) took over as president and CEO on April 4, 2016. On May 14, 2020, Jeff Graves was appointed as president and CEO and continues to hold that position as of February 17, 2023.

Technology-wise, 3D Systems manufactures various types of 3D printing systems, including stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser sintering (SLS), color-jet printing (CJP), multi-jet printing (MJP), and direct metal printing (DMP). Each of these technologies utilizes digital 3D data to produce parts through an additive layer-by-layer process. These systems differ in terms of the materials they use, their printing capacities, and their applications.

For its products, the company provides a wide range of 3D printers and print materials to cater to users across various industries. Additionally, the company offers content creation software, including reverse engineering and organic 3D modeling software. Following a business model akin to offering razors and blades, 3D Systems offers more than a hundred materials that can be used with its printers, including waxes, rubber-like materials, metals, composites, plastics, and nylons.

3D Systems operates as a closed-source company, relying on in-house technologies for product development and using patents to protect its innovations from competitors. Critics of the closed-source model argue that it hinders the rapid development and innovation of 3D printing by limiting information sharing within the industry. In contrast, supporters contend that patents encourage higher-quality innovations, ultimately leading to better final products.

In November 2012, 3D Systems filed a lawsuit against Formlabs, a prosumer 3D printer company, and the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. This legal battle centered on Formlabs’ attempt to fund a printer that 3D Systems claimed infringed its patent related to “Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.” The legal proceedings lasted more than two years and were significant enough to be featured in a Netflix documentary about 3D printing titled “Print the Legend.”

3D Systems has sought patents for various innovations and technologies, covering areas such as rapid prototyping, image projection systems, cooling of laser-sintered parts, solid freeform fabrication, and more.

Range of Services

  • SLA
  • MJP
  • CJP
  • SLS
  • DMLS
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