In a sign of accelerating interest in additive manufacturing, the Redwood City, California-based start-up Carbon has raised more than $260 million in a venture capital funding round that will go to R&D and to further commercialize its unique 3-D printing technology.
Investment companies Madrone Capital Partners and Baillie Gifford led the financing. New investors include the Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek and the specialty chemical maker Arkema, which markets both thermoplastics such as nylon 11 and ultraviolet-curable materials to the 3-D printing industry. Existing investors include Sequoia Capital, Johnson & Johnson, Fidelity, Adidas Ventures, and JSR, a Japanese chemical maker.
The investment brings Carbon’s total funding to $680 million and values it at more than $2.4 billion. The company was co-founded in 2013 by chemist Joseph M. DeSimone.
Carbon uses ultraviolet light to continuously cure polymers into parts with plastic or elastomeric properties. Carbon says the process can use a broad slate of materials, not just the acrylics and epoxies of existing stereolithography-based processes. The company says the speed also allows 3-D printers to make parts at a scale suitable for manufacturing, not just prototyping.
Carbon’s machines are being used to make parts for Adidas shoes, Ford cars, and Riddell football helmets. The company claims it has seen a 33fold increase in print volumes over the past 12 months alone. Carbon also says it has introduced 20 new resins over the past year.
Among the uses of the money, Carbon says, will be establishing an advanced development facility and expanding in Europe and Asia. Carbon also wants to plunge more into biocompatible and recyclable materials.
“This is an inflection point for the company,” remarks Greg Penner, founder of Madrone Capital Partners and chairman of Walmart.
Dayton T. Horvath, a principal at New Capital Partners and an industry consultant, says Carbon’s venture capital round is the largest ever in a company developing core technologies for 3-D printing.
Investment in such core technologies is ramping up quickly. In 2017, the sector received $277 million in venture capital, Horvath says. Last year it brought in $500 million. And in just the first six months of this year it received another $500 million in venture money, not including the Carbon investment.
“Expect big things because there is increased confidence in the industry right now,” he says.