Formlabs, the Massachusetts-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of polymer 3D printers, announced that the company has entered into a strategic partnership with FITTLE, Xerox’s equipment financing division. Through its alliance with FITTLE, Formlabs will both provide its customer base with a wider and more flexible array of purchasing options, as well as streamline customer support, billing, and equipment maintenance services for Formlabs’ users.
FITTLE has already closed its first deal to facilitate the purchase of Formlabs’ platforms: 1:10 Rod Shop, a small business that makes and sells remote control (RC) cars and RC car parts, financing an order of three Formlabs Fuse selective laser sintering (SLS) printers from FITTLE. According to Formlabs’ website, customers can finance the Fuse 1+ package — totaling a little under $40,000 — for as little as $720 a month over five years.
Although Xerox eliminated Elem, its additive manufacturing (AM) division, in October, 2022, and had only entered the AM space in 2019, the company has nevertheless made a disproportionately large splash with its AM-centered activities. Among other achievements, in the summer of 2022, Xerox’s ElemX metal printer became the first machine to print metal parts on a US naval vessel while at sea.
Moreover, as the news of a partnership between FITTLE and Formlabs makes clear, Xerox Elem was far from the company’s only foothold in the sector. In addition to FITTLE’s partnership with additive construction (AC) OEM Black Buffalo, announced in the summer of 2022, Xerox Ventures, the company’s venture capital fund, has made a number of investments into businesses involved in AM. For instance, in 2021, Xerox Ventures led a seed funding round into AM software firm CASTOR, and at the beginning of this year, made an investment in Massachusetts-based AM startup, Seurat Technologies.
With all this in mind, it seems plausible to wonder if Xerox’s AM strategy all along has been to get into the financing and machine servicing side of the sector. Beyond its history of technological milestones achieved, Xerox is, just as importantly, a pioneer in office equipment leasing and financing, which have been an integral part of its business model for decades.
Combining that with the company’s experience gained from its work on the latest advances in metal AM, alongside its portfolio of end-to-end entry points into the AM sector, a strong case could be made for overhauling the entire brand into an equipment financing/leasing and services provider for the US advanced manufacturing ecosystem. I still think Xerox will end up being acquired, sooner rather than later: but I also think its efforts in AM over the last few years have significantly driven up its price for any potential buyers.
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