3D Systems completes Robtec purchase in Latin America push

US-based 3D-printing player 3D Systems has completed its acquisition of Brazilian additive manufacturing service bureau Robtec, creating 3D Systems Latin America in the process.

3D Systems is ramping up its Latin America push, creating 3D Systems Latin America after completing its acquisition of Brazilian additive manufacturing service bureau Robtec.

Robtec operates in several Latin American countries, including Chile, Uruguay, and Mexico, along with its home country, Brazil. 3D Systems considers the company to be the largest Latin American additive manufacturing services bureau in the region.

The Brazilian company, which has now been branded 3D Systems Latin America, provides rapid prototyping and custom manufacturing services to big ticket aerospace and automotive companies, including Embraer, Siemens, Volkswagen, Fiat, and Mercedes.

The South Carolina-based additive manufacturing player first announced that it would snap up 70 percent of the shares in Robtec in April, and now expects the remainder of the shares to be transferred from Robtec on the fifth anniversary of the deal's completion, announced on November 25.

3D Systems has been on an ambitious acquisition spree over the past year to drive up its global 3D-printing services and equipment market share. The publicly listed company acquired Belgian direct metal 3D-printing provider LayerWise in September, and simultaneously bought sister rapid prototyping companies American Precision Prototyping and American Precision Machining in August.

The company's president and CEO Avi Reichental said that the acquisition represented the "cornerstone" of its Latin American expansion strategy.

"We believe that Robtec's on-the-ground additive manufacturing service bureau capabilities, expanded channel coverage, and deep automotive and aerospace customer relationships, combined with their strong strategic and cultural fit with 3DS, present significant benefits for our customers, sizeable growth opportunities for our business, and greater value for our shareholders," said Reichental.

The acquisition comes as the International Space Station (ISS) plays host to the first 3D printer ever to operate in space, with a specially designed 3D printer developed by Made In Space Inc printing its first object in the microgravity environment of ISS' low-Earth orbit.

ISS Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore holds up the first 3D-printed part made in space. Image: Made In Space

The first 3D-printed part to be made in space was a functional part of the printer itself — a faceplate for its own extruder print head. ISS astronauts printed the item on November 24, after a series of calibration tests following the arrival of the printer to the space station in September.

Given that most additive desktop-sized 3D printers lay down layer upon layer of material to build up a printed object, it was unknown how the printer would operate in microgravity conditions.

However, following the first successful trial, Made In Space's chief technical officer Jason Dunn said the technology has proven itself.

"This first print serves to demonstrate the potential of the technology to produce replacement parts on demand if a critical component fails in space," said Dunn.

Made In Space hopes that its machine will help space agencies cut back on the expense of sending specific items into orbit.

"This project demonstrates the basic fundamentals of useful manufacturing in space," said Made In Space director of research and development Mike Snyder. "The results of this experiment will serve as a stepping stone for significant future capabilities that will allow for the reduction of spare parts and mass on a spacecraft, which will change exploration mission architectures for the better.

"Manufacturing components on demand will yield more efficient, more reliable, and less Earth-dependent space programs in the near future," he said.