Koch Disruptive Technologies, a subsidiary of Koch Industries—the privately held industrial conglomerate with €110 billion in revenues—led the investment, which was joined by GV, Panasonic and Techtronic. Koch joins a high-powered lineup of investors in Burlington, Massachusetts-based Desktop Metal that includes Ford, GE Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins.
Desktop Metal has been working to upend the €12.8 trillion global manufacturing industry with 3D metal printers that can operate at mass-production scale. Production scale has been the holy grail of 3D printing, which has to date largely been used for prototyping and for high-end, regulated industries such as aerospace and medical devices. Mass-production capabilities would be especially beneficial to industries like automotive because of 3D printing's ability to reduce the weight and increase the efficiency of parts with designs that could not be created by traditional methods.
The Koch investment will give Desktop Metal tighter ties to its portfolio companies, including paper-and-packing giant Georgia-Pacific and Molex, a leader in connectors. "We are just trying to grow the business and get market share," Ric Fulop, Desktop Metal’s cofounder and CEO, told Forbes. But the new funding also puts the startup one step closer to an initial public offering, and Fulop said he thought it would be the last fundraise before an IPO. "We are funded through cash-flow breakeven," he said.
Desktop Metal is one of a number of players vying in the 3D metal printer space. The market for 3D metal printers is far smaller than that for machines that print polymers, but it is growing fast. Desktop Metal racked up a backlog of orders of €120 million by last summer, putting revenue on track to surpass €100 million this year. While the company has been shipping its smaller, studio systems, it is just now gearing up to ship its first mass-production machine—slated for next month, Fulop said, to a U.S. customer that he declined to identify.