Sep 14, 2016 | By Alec

Big things are happening over in the Dutch HQ of Ultimaker in Geldermalsen. The desktop 3D printing pioneer has just received a 15 million euro loan from the Luxemburg-based European Investment Bank (EIB). The funds will mostly be used to facilitate research projects and to bridge the gap until an even larger seed round that is scheduled for mid-2017. Ultimaker, it seems, is looking to take over the desktop 3D printing world.

In many ways, this is just a new chapter in the success story that is Ultimaker. Since being founded in 2011, the company has grown explosively. Ultimaker started out with three friends, Siert Wijnia, Erik de Bruijn and Martijn Elserman, who were tinkering with open source RepRap 3D printers. As it turned out, there was a huge demand for their custom and very open hardware solutions, and the company quickly began manufacturing countless 3D printers to cope with that demand. But even today, the open source principles are at the core of Ultimaker, and all blueprints are continuously open to the public to allow for DIY improvements.

But this has done little to limit Ultimaker’s own growth. Today, they are one of the biggest desktop 3D printer manufacturers in the world, responsible for about 25 percent of all 3D printers in their market segment. Ultimaker hardware can be found in the design workshops of Volkswagen, Airbus, Tesla and Apple, and over 2015 their turnover was valued at €30 million (approximately $33.7 million USD).

Though Ultimaker hardware is very suitable for home users, about 70 percent of 3D printers sold go to companies and 20 percent to research institutes – including TU Delft, Hardvard and Yale. Right now, Ultimaker employs around 200 people and their production facilities are located in Zaltbommel, the Netherlands, and in Boston for the American market. Just last year, the company also signed an assembly, distribution and support deal with Fbrc8.

From left: Siert Wijnia, Martijn Elserman and Erik De Bruijn (Image: 3ders.org)

Their success and client range was clear enough to attract the attention of the EIB, the European Union’s bank. The EIB typically provides funds to projects that contribute to furthering EU policy objectives, and Ultimaker’s innovative drive clearly fits in with their vision. The €15 million loan is completely intended for the facilitation of growth and research, and also allows Ultimaker to continue their work in anticipation of an even bigger investment round in mid-2017.

In particular, the funds will help the company better prepare for custom research projects. Many of the parts Ultimaker manufactures are custom-made for professional clients, with development times quickly taking up to a year-and-a-half. In those cases, especially the printhead can be difficult to tackle. There’s thus still a lot of room for improvement in Ultimaker’s research facilities.

But according to Ultimaker, this EIB loan will also help them prepare for the next phase in their existence. Their main goal is long-term autonomous growth, and they will need a market shake-up to realize it. We can therefore expect a lot from Ultimaker over the next few years.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

 

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Tim K wrote at 9/15/2016 12:12:29 AM:

Does this mean they will release a printer with color mixing heads (multi input filaments, one output) or multiple extruders, such as kraken water cooled with four input filaments? One can hope...



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