On 3 January 2013, 3D Systems said it signed an agreement to acquire Geomagic, a provider of software used to scan physical objects such as auto parts, medical devices or even artwork and then create a 3D digital model that can be edited or sculpted digitally. The deal is scheduled to close before March 30. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The acquisition will have a transformative effect on the 3D printer market because activities that involve 3D printing — such as design, prototyping, part production and product service — are increasingly influenced by software applications. The infusion of deep software functions into the printer hardware business will add value to 3D printers and could contribute to an increase in 3D printer sales as printers become even more integral to the activities mentioned above.
The deal builds on 3D Systems' purchases of Inus Technology, known for its Rapidform software, and Viztu Technologies during 2012. Viztu enables users to convert pictures and videos into printable 3D creations. Geomagic complements this with abilities to transform scanned physical objects into digital models that can be modified or printed by designers, manufacturers, students and artists. Rapidform's functions are similar to those of Geomagic but with different approaches to creating the digital models. The aggregate of these software acquisitions will transform 3D Systems with a primary focus on 3D printing to a company that enables cultivation of geometry-related content with a central role for 3D printing.
Industries most likely to benefit from 3D Systems-Geomagic's combined capabilities include aerospace, defense, automotive, industrial machinery and consumer durable goods manufacturers for design, manufacturing, quality control and damaged-part replacement. Students and researchers can also use the expanded portfolio to develop designs, conduct research and create artwork.
Also, just as prices for 3D printers continue to decline, 3D Systems has resources and scale that can make Geomagic software, historically high-priced, more affordable to small and midsize companies. However, 3D Systems has a significant learning curve to successfully manage an expanded software business that has different priorities and approaches to product development, selling and customer support than hardware.
Gartner offers these recommendations to managers responsible for rapid prototyping, manufacturing or printing in following types of organizations:
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