3D Systems helps product designers and engineers bring their concepts to life. The company's stereolithography apparatuses (SLAs) and other machines create 3-D prototypes of everything from toys to airplane parts. Its SLAs rapidly produce 3-D objects designed in CAD/CAM software in a process called solid imaging, which uses a laser to sculpt plastic resin materials into physical models. Its ThermoJet solid object printer also fabricates plastic models using a modified ink jet printing system. Additionally, 3D Systems sells the raw plastic and metal consumable material used in its machinery. Customers have included General Electric, Hasbro, and Texas Instruments. The company does business in Europe, the US, and Asia.
Thanks in part to more sales of professional and production printers and income from a business operation created in 2009, 3Dproparts, 3D Systems' revenue rose more than 41% in 2010 over 2009, and net income was up more than 75%. Sales in all the company's operating territories were up as the global economy began recovering from a tough economic climate.
In 2009 it acquired the assets of Acu-Cast Technologies, a provider of rapid prototyping and manufacturing services for precision parts, employing a variety of casting, finishing, and molding methods. Using the acquisition as a springboard, the company launched 3Dproparts. The scope of that service soon expanded into the military/aerospace market with a subsequent purchase of assets from AdvaTech Manufacturing.
3Dproparts continued to grow in 2010 when 3D Systems made seven acquisitions for the division, beginning with the assets of Moeller Design & Development, adding aerospace, medical device, and mechanical CAD prototyping applications. It bought online rapid prototyping specialist Design Prototyping Technologies soon after to improve the ability of 3Dproparts to provide service via the Internet, then acquired French prototyping and manufacturing service providers CEP (laser sintering manufacturing services) and Protometal (die cast metal parts), expanding its 3Dproparts' services in Europe. Also that year it bought the assets of Express Pattern, a rapid prototyper that served defense, transportation, and health care clients; UK-based Bits From Bytes Limited, a maker of 3-D printers and accessories primarily for education and hobbyist applications; and Italy-based Provel, a provider of rapid prototyping, tooling, and manufacturing services.
3D Systems has used acquisitions to supplement the development of its products and services and expand its customer base. In 2012 the company bought VIDAR Systems and Z Corporation from Danish large format scanner maker Contex for more than $135 million. 3D Systems saw the companies as a natural fit with its own technologies, with potential to accelerate its growth in the 3-D content-to-print market. The acquisitions also added complementary products to the 3D Systems' portfolio and significantly expand its distribution and market reach.
Early in 2011, it bought National RP Support, an Iowa-based company that already provided customer support and parts for 3D Systems' equipment. Shortly afterward, it paid $15.9 million in cash for Quickparts, an Atlanta-based company that offers an e-commerce platform for custom manufactured parts. 3D Systems integrated its own parts fulfillment operations with Quickparts. It also acquired SYCODE, adding computer-aided design software used by designers for building digital prototypes, Alibre, a provider of affordable 3-D software, and Formero, a Melbourne-based custom parts and 3-D printer manufacturer that will help 3D Systems expand in Asia/Pacific.
Additionally, 3D Systems bought two Dutch companies that year, expanding its presence in the Benelux region. It acquired Kemo Modelmakerij, a provider of custom parts 3-D parts services which was renamed 3D Systems Benelux, and it purchased Freedom of Creation.
3D Systems primarily sells via a direct sales force, but it also uses distributors and resellers for select products and regions. The company targets manufacturers of automotive, aerospace, consumer, dental, electronics, defense, education, and medical products; independent prototyping service providers; and universities and government agencies performing research activities. International clients account for more than half of its business.