The UK Companies Innovating within the 3D Printing Space
SAM PECKETT, 08 June 2023
In 2023, the 3D printing market is predicted to grow worldwide 17% to be worth £16.1b. In the UK, the government is investing in innovative 3D printing UK-based companies. In 2022, £13.7m was awarded to projects to make manufacturing more efficient, which included LEAD Factory’s technology which will allow products made from recycled materials to be 3D printed at scale. The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing received a £6m grant in 2023 from the government to develop processes to allow 3D printed medical products to be manufactured more efficiently. These products include prosthetic limbs, drugs containing biological molecules, and patches and plasters that can rebuild damaged tissues.
3D printing is a method of creating 3D objects based on computer designed 3D models. The designs are often formatted as OBJ or STL files, and these 3D files can be created and designed in software such as Blender and 3DS Max. The printing process involves the objects being created layer by layer using 3D printers. A common method is fused deposition modelling or FDM 3D printing, which melts filaments, layers them, and lets them solidify when cooled.
Also known as additive manufacturing, it’s used in industries such as aerospace and defence, often for creating one-off prototypes, but it’s starting to be used for functional parts too. Looking ahead, it’s also expected to speed up the product research process through processes such as selective laser sintering (SLS), which can produce rapid prototypes in short production runs that are easy to customise.
The top seven companies in 3D printing
Total funds raised: £22.2m
Belfast-based Axial3D uses scans to create accurate 3D-printed models of bones to support treatment. The use of 3D printing now allows for the fast production of high-quality, on-demand 3D models at affordable prices. This means models can be made for more patients to improve outcomes; previously models were only created for complex surgeries. In January 2023, the company opened a new state of the art facility in Belfast to allow them to provide more hospitals and manufacturers access to 3D-printed anatomical models.
Axial3D’s latest of seven fundraisings was in November 2022 for £13.2m. This has brought its total fundraising up to £22.2m. Stratasys, an industrial 3D printing manufacturer, invested £8.9m. Other investors include Co-FundNI, which invests in SMEs based in Northern Ireland, Future Fund, a government scheme to invest in UK-based companies, and Innovation Ulster Ltd, a technology venture company owned by Ulster University.
Total funds raised: £13.7m
Wayland Additive creates and develops electron beam 3D printing machines. Electron beam 3D printing is very precise and allows for extremely complex components, often created from metal alloys. This allows for products to be made from a wide range of materials more complex than the usual plastics such as PLA, ABS, PETG and TPU. Materials used in industries such as aerospace, mining and healthcare require this level of complexity. Funding in April 2023 from existing investors such as Longwall Ventures and ACF Investors, will allow the company to offer “off the shelf” machines with reduced lead times.
The company’s April 2023 funding increased its total fundraising value to £13.7m from four fundraisings. Other investors include Metrea Discovery, a tech and finance investor with a focus on security, and Parkwalk Opportunities EIS Fund which invest in ‘knowledge-intensive’ companies.
Total funds raised: £12.6m
A University of Oxford spinout in 2018, Hexr produces custom-fit cycling helmets. The company’s helmets use a honeycomb structure that can only be produced via 3D printing and improves safety by 26%. Each helmet is designed to fit the individual wearer and is a reduced size when compared to a traditional foam helmet. Hexr has an app that users can use to scan their heads for a custom fit.
Having raised a total of £12.6m across five fundraisings, Hexr’s investors include Oxford Science Enterprises, who fund companies that have spun out of the University. Funding has also come from Innovate UK, which helps to develop businesses across the UK.
Total funds raised: £11m
Liverpool-based Hobs Repro has been in the printing business since 1969. Working in graphic design, digital printing, finishing and delivery of printed materials, over the last ten years they have moved into 3D printing. The company’s 3D function, known as Hobs 3D, offers model making, a 3D printing service and 3D visualisations to support clients in their design process.
It has gone through two fundraisings, with the first in 2014 worth £7m to support its 3D printing business, helping it to expand nationally. It received a further £4m in 2017. The company supported the construction team to build the new Wembley Stadium, providing 3D printing and drawing management services.
Total funds raised: £10.7m
Domin is a manufacturer that uses 3D printing to create hydraulic and pneumatic systems. A key feature of their products is that they are lighter than their competitors, which is important in car racing and aviation, their areas of expertise. In 2022, the company partnered with Aston Martin to create a suspension system that is extremely lightweight.
The company has gone through six fundraisings totalling £10.7m, with the latest worth £4.40m in July 2022. Investors are undisclosed. It has also received 12 grants worth £3.54m, with the latest in September 2022 worth 140k.
Total funds raised: £10.3m
Open Bionics produces medical devices for those who have lost limbs. Their first product is the Hero Arm for people with below-elbow limb difference. They have partnered with Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm to add ‘covers’ to the Hero Arm, which update the designs to those of your favourite action heroes. The Hero Arm has an accompanying app, which offers training videos, guides, real-time tracking and options to personalise your use.
The company has gone through four fundraisings so far totalling £10.3m. The latest fundraising was in November 2022 for £3.26m. In February 2019, Foresign Williams, the venture arm of the Williams F1 team, along with Downing LLP and Ananda Impact Ventures co-led a £4.6m investment. Other investors into the company include Growthdeck, which supports overseas investors to invest in UK businesses, Rathbone Nominees, an investment management service, and Crowdcube, which invest in category defining brands.
Total funds raised: £10.2m
AMFG’s software helps companies to manage their 3D printing process, allowing them to improve their workflow and identify bottlenecks in their process. The software will integrate with existing ERP, PLM or CAD software used by companies, supporting them to scale their operations. In February 2023, AMFG and Imperial College London received funding from Innovate UK to develop software that can allow 3D printing machines to operate without human input.
AMFG has raised £10.2m across four fundraisings, with the latest worth £7.15 in November 2022. It has also received £839k from five grants. The company’s investors include Intel Capital, who invest in cloud, silicon, mobile technologies and robotics, and Startup Funding Club, the UK’s most active early-stage investment firm.
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