Jan 30, 2016 | By Tess

In 2014, Australian 3D printer company 3D Group attempted to market and sell what was at the time the world’s largest 3D printer. Now, just a couple years later, after the company declared voluntary administration (the equivalent of a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is beginning an investigation into 3D Group’s business and administration practices.

How could such a seemingly promising 3D printing company have taken such a twisted turn? Let’s take a look.

In 2014, Jason Simpson, a Melbourne, Australia based inventor was credited as having built the world’s largest 3D printer, which had a build volume of 1000mm x 1000mm x 400mm. Noticing this potential, businessman John Conidi, the managing director of Capitol Health, a prominent Australian medical imaging company, approached Simpson to propose a business deal.

Believing the partnership could open many doors and opportunities for his 3D printers, Simpson agreed and in March of 2014, Conidi, Simpson and two other business partners founded the company 3D group.

“[Mr Conidi] assured me that he would make me very rich and that he had the skills to not only take the company to the ASX (Australian Stock Exchange) but to make it very profitable,” Mr. Simpson told ABC. “This sounded like a good source of work, and a good way to develop our technology.”

At first, 3D group did attract positive attention as Simpson’s second generation large-scale 3D printer was featured at Melbourne’s tech expo, Inside 3D Printing. Despite its popularity, however, Simpson explained that the machine was not even working properly as funding for the creation of the 3D printer had been difficult to get from his business partners.

“Great companies…spend a lot of time and often money in developing these products, they’re not just designed quickly and thrown out there,” said Simpson. “We didn’t have the staff, the equipment or the plans properly in place to responsibly take on any orders.”

Already by the end of 2014, the company’s founders were in disputes and 3D Group was on the brink of going into voluntary administration (VA). Simpson felt he was being treated unfairly by his business partners.

As an email between Simpson and Conidi on the 24th of December reveals, 3D Group went into VA after Simpson turned down an offer to sell his shares that was not in the least beneficial to him and Conidi placed the company in voluntary administration without his agreement, essentially leaving Simpson with nothing.

Just weeks later, Conidi registered a new company called 333D Pty Ltd. which went on to purchase all of 3D Group’s assets from the administrator who dealt with the VA. The assets purchased by 333D Pty Ltd. included all of Simpson’s 3D printer designs, over which he had no more ownership or say.

Since the founding of 333D Pty Ltd. the company has done relatively well as they signed an agreement with the Australian Football League in September, 2015, to manufacture 3D printed merchandise for the league. The company is also in the process of preparing a reverse takeover of Oz Brewing, a listed Australian beer company, to gain the status of a publicly listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Now, however, ASIC, Australia’s corporate regulator, has reportedly been investigating 3D Group and how its business was administered and handled by its proprietors, which could have potential repercussions for Conidi’s current company 333D Pty Ltd.

Simpson, who feels he was severely wronged by his business partners and wished for a different outcome said, “If I could do it again it would be…keep a closer eye on them. Get more advice.” He has not been able to take official legal action against his former partners because of financial reasons.

While it remains to be seen whether ASIC will discover something fishy in how 3D Group was run or dissolved, we will surely be keeping an eye out for how this process will develop.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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