3D Systems, headquartered in Rock Hill, South Carolina, is a company that engineers, manufactures and sells 3D printers. Chuck Hull, currently the CTO and former president, invented stereolithography in 1986. 3D Systems creates product concept models, precision and functional prototypes, master patterns for tooling, as well as production parts for direct digital manufacturing. 3D Systems uses proprietary processes to fabricate physical objects using input from computer-aided design and manufacturing software, or 3D scanning and 3D sculpting devices.
3D Systems' technologies and services are used in the design, development and production stages of many industries, including aerospace, automotive, healthcare, dental, entertainment and durable goods. 3D Systems offers a range of professional- and production-grade 3D printers as well as software and materials. 3D Systems is notable within the 3D printing industry for developing stereolithography and the STL file format.
3D Systems was founded in Valencia, California, by Chuck Hull, the inventor and patent-holder of the first stereolithography (SLA) rapid prototyping system. Prior to Hull's introduction of SLA rapid prototyping, concept models required extensive time and money to produce. The innovation of SLA reduced these resource expenditures while increasing the quality and accuracy of the resulting model. Early SLA systems were complex and costly, however, and required extensive redesign before achieving commercial viability. Primary issues concerned hydrodynamic and chemical complications. In 1996 the introduction of solid-state lasers permitted Hull and his team to reformulate their materials. Engineers in transportation, healthcare and consumer products helped fuel early phases of 3D Systems' rapid prototyping research and development. These industries remain key followers of 3D Systems' technology.
In 2003, Hull was succeeded by Avi Reichental. Both Reichental and Hull are listed among the top twenty most influential people in rapid technologies by TCT Magazine. Hull remains an active member of 3D Systems' board and serves as the company's Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President. 3D Systems relocated its headquarters to Rock Hill, South Carolina, citing a favorable business climate, a sustained lower cost of doing business, and significant investment and tax benefits as reasons for the move.
In 2015, Reichental stepped down as the president and CEO of 3D Systems, Inc. and was replaced, on an interim basis, by the company's Chief Legal Officer Andrew Johnson.
On April 4th, 2016, the 3D Systems board appointed Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) as President and CEO.
In late 2001 3D Systems began an acquisitions program that expanded the company's technology through ownership of software, materials, printers and printable content, as well as access to the skills of engineers and designers. The rate of 3D Systems' acquisitions (16 in 2011) raised some eyebrows with regard to the task facing the company's management team. Other onlookers point to the encompassing scope of the acquisitions as indicating calculated steps by 3D Systems to consolidate the 3D printing industry under one roof and logo, to become a comprehensive one-stop-shop capable of servicing each link in the scan/create-to-print chain.
3D Systems now employs over 2400 people in 25 offices worldwide. Through its acquisitions, 3D Systems has achieved a strong and growing presence in Asia-Pacific (China, Korea, Japan) and Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom), in addition to expanding its brand of print materials, printers, industrial and professional CAD software, on-demand custom parts services, data capture and scanning technologies, and customizable, ready-to-print consumer collections. 3D Systems' corporate statements indicate the company's desire to facilitate user creation and "remove expert/user friction between content creation and print."
In May 2011, 3D Systems transferred from NASDAQ (TDSC) to the New York Stock Exchange (DDD). Company stock has risen with general consistency since its entry to the exchange, as have company revenues and profits. In 2012, a Gray Wolf Report predicted 3D Systems' rate of growth to be unsustainable, pointing to inflated impressions from acquisitions as a corporate misstatement of organic growth. 3D Systems responded to this article on November 19, 2012, claiming it to "contain materially false statements and erroneous conclusions that we believe defamed the company and its reputation and resulted in losses to our shareholders." One offending article was removed as a result. Sequential increases in earnings from actual sales and steady climbs in stock price per share provide reasonable cause for skepticism towards this report.
In January 2014 it was announced that 3D Systems had acquired the Burbank, CA-based collectibles company Gentle Giant LTD. Gentle Giant Ltd. designs, develops, and manufactures three-dimensional representations of characters from a variety of franchise properties with worldwide name recognition, including Star Wars, The Matrix, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Hellboy Animated, Disney Dragonkind, Animated Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Red Star, Terminator, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride. Gentle Giant Ltd. produces a wide range of products including mini busts, statues, Bust-Ups, action figures, 12" figures and models. Gentle Giant Ltd.'s products are manufactured using the highest quality of polyresin, resin, plastic, PVC and ABS. Utilizing the most advanced laser-scanning techniques and a team of incredibly talented artisans, Gentle Giant digitally captures the likenesses of actors, props, and scenery to accurately recreate these images for fans and collectors everywhere.
In July 2014, 3D Systems announced an acquisition of Israeli medical imaging company Simbionix for US$120,000,000.
In September 2014, 3D Systems acquired the Belgian company LayerWise. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed by the companies. The company is based in Leuven, a town in Belgium close to Brussels. It is a principal provider of services in the area of direct metal 3D printing and manufacturing. The company was a spin-off of the University of Leuven. The takeover adds Belgium to the list of countries where 3D Systems has active locations.
In January 2015, 3D Systems acquired the 3D printer manufacturer botObjects, the first company to commercialize a printer using the fused deposition modeling technique.
In April 2015, 3D Systems announced it acquired the Easyway Group of companies in China, creating 3D Systems China. Easyway is a Chinese 3D printing sales and service provider with key operations in Shanghai, Wuxi, Beijing, Guangdong and Chongqing.
3D Systems manufactures stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS) color-jet printing (CJP), fused deposition modeling (FDM), multi-jet printing (MJP) and direct metal printing (DMP). Each technology takes digital input from three-dimensional data to create three-dimensional parts through an additive, layer-by-layer process. The systems vary in their materials, print capacities and applications.
As part of 3D Systems' effort to consolidate 3D printing under one logo, its products span a range of 3D printers and print products to target users of its technologies across industries. 3D Systems offers both professional and production printers. In addition to printers, 3D Systems offers content creation software including reverse engineering software and organic 3D modeling software. Following a razors and blades business model, 3D Systems offers more than one hundred materials to be used with its printers, including waxes, rubber-like materials, metals, composites, plastics and nylons.
3D Systems is a closed-source company, using in-house technologies for product development and patents to protect these technologies from competitors. Critics of the closed-source model have blamed seemingly slow development and innovation in 3D printing not on a lack of technology, but on a lack of open information sharing within the industry. Supporters of the closed source model argue that the right to patents inspires and motivates higher-quality innovations, leading to a better and more impressive final product.
In November 2012, 3D Systems filed a lawsuit against prosumer 3D printer company Formlabs and the Kickstarter crowdfunding website over Formlabs attempt to fund a printer which it claimed infringed its patent on “Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.”
3D Systems has applied for patents for the following innovations and technologies: the rapid prototyping and manufacturing system and method; radiation curable compositions useful in image projection systems; compensation of actinic radiation intensity profiles for 3D modelers; apparatus and method for cooling part cake in laser sintering; radiation curable compositions useful in solid freeform fabrication systems; apparatus for 3D printing using imaged layers; compositions and methods for selective deposition modeling; edge smoothness with low resolution projected images for use in solid imaging; elevator and method for tilting solid image build platform for reducing air entrapment and for build release; selective deposition modeling methods for improved support-object interface; region-based supports for parts produced by solid freeform fabrication; additive manufacturing methods for improved curl control and sidewall quality; support and build material and applications.
3D Systems’ products and services are used across industries to assist, either in part or in full, the design, manufacture and/or marketing processes. 3D Systems' technologies and materials are used for prototyping and the production of functional end-use parts, in addition to fast, precise design communication. Current 3D Systems-reliant industries include automotive, aerospace and defense, architecture, dental and healthcare, consumer goods and manufacturing.
Examples of industry-specific applications include:
For industries such as aerospace and automotive, 3D Systems' technologies have reduced the time needed to incorporate design drafts and enabled the production of more efficient parts of lighter weight. Because 3D printing builds layer-by-layer according to design, it does not need to accommodate the traditional manufacturing tools of subtractive methods, often resulting in lighter parts and more efficient geometries.
In 2007, the company consolidated its offices, operations, and research and development functions into a new global headquarters in Rock Hill, South Carolina, US. About half of the headquarters’ 80,000 square feet (7,400 m) consist of research and development laboratories with an 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m) Rapid Manufacturing Center (RMC) with 3D Systems’ rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing and 3D printing systems at work.
With customers in 80 countries, 3D Systems has over 2100 employees in 25 worldwide locations, including San Francisco, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, China, Korea and Japan. The company has more than 359 U.S. and foreign patents.
3D Systems is involved in a multi-year agreement with the Smithsonian Institution as part of a Smithsonian-wide effort to strengthen collections' stewardship and increase collection accessibility through 3D representations. This partnership is part of the company's attempt to broadcast the capabilities and applications of 3D printing while increasing "the visibility and accessibility of our national treasures."
In 2012, 3D Systems began partnering with the 90-year-old Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in the Future New category. For this branch of the Scholastic Awards, students will be challenged to express bold and innovative ideas using new technologies. 3D Systems will offer students free 3D design software to facilitate their creations and will award three winners with a $1000 scholarship. This money is in addition to the prizes and recognition granted winners by the Scholastic Awards.
3D Systems is a corporate underwriter of the National Children's Oral Health Foundation: America's ToothFairy (NCOHF). NCOHF provides community programs to deliver educational, preventative and treatment oral health services to children in at-risk populations. 3D Systems contributes its 3D content-to-print solutions and Cubify capabilities to the NCOHF effort.
3D Systems has contributed two production-grade 3D printers to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio, the first center of a federal initiative to enhance the competitiveness of US industry. The Youngstown institute is just one regional hub of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which aspires to build "world-class centers for applied research, technology incubation and commercialization" to re-localize manufacturing and strengthen US competitiveness.
On February 18 of 2014, Ekso Bionics debuted the first ever 3D printed hybrid exoskeleton robotic suit, in collaboration with 3D Systems.