UnionTech raises $31 million to take SLA 3D printing success to new heights

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Industrial stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer maker UnionTech has successfully secured $31 million in Series D funding, Pandaily sources say.

Led by Dening Capital, the investment was also reportedly backed by Cash Capital, Yingke Private Equity, Dragonrise Capital and Evonik Venture Capital, among others. Although it has yet to publicly comment on the increase, it is likely that UnionTech will use its funding to drive expansion, with the company posting an average annual growth rate of more than 50% over the past ten years.

UnionTech’s industrial SLA technology has helped it attract the interest of investors like Evonik. Image via UnionTech.

UnionTech’s SLA Printing Portfolio

Since entering the 3D printer market in 2000 as “Shanghai Union Technology Corporation”, UnionTech has rebranded itself and successfully expanded its operations significantly. After expanding to Europe and the United States in 2016, the company then launched its Pilot Commercial Series 3D printers at TCT 2017.

Consisting of the Pilot 250 and Pilot 450, this line of SLA machines included features that built upon those of its existing RSPro models and offered users the ability to create high-volume parts with excellent surface finishes. These systems also retained the same easy-to-assemble platform as their predecessors, as well as their open hardware configuration, leaving them open to third-party innovation.

One of the ways UnionTech has sought to foster this culture of experimentation is through its collaboration with what used to be the 3D printing division of DSM, and has now been acquired by Covestro. As part of this partnership, the company has become a reseller of several Somos, ProtoGen and ProtoTherm materials, with the impact, heat resistance and precision to open new applications to UnionTech users.

More recently, the company’s technologies have generally been applied in automotive environments, with C-TECH using 3D printing to improve the efficiency of customizing its cars, and the DIAN Racing team at the University of Tongji turned to SLA to build their DRe21 electric race car and compete in Formula Student Electric China.

The different parts of DRe21.  Image via UnionTech.
TJU DIAN Racing used UnionTech 3D printing to produce 56 parts for their DRe21 race car. Image via UnionTech.

An investment inspired by growth?

Since UnionTech is not publicly traded and has not spoken publicly about its latest funding round, it is unclear where exactly it plans to reinvest its newly raised capital. However, pandaily has obtained figures from market analysis firm CONTEXT, which provide some insight into why it has attracted so much investment.

According to Pandaily, this undisclosed report shows that UnionTech’s revenue has grown by an average of more than 50% over the past ten years, and this figure rises to more than 80% when it comes to the growth of its acquired equipment.

Likewise, these figures indicate that the company’s shipments were the highest of all of CONTEXT’s industrial-grade category during the first and second quarters of 2021, while they also show that the Chinese printing industry 3D has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 49% over the past five years, making those operating there very attractive to potential investors.

That being said, not all of the investors behind UnionTech’s Series D funding round were new backers, and Evonik Venture Capital has been investing in the company since at least December 2020. At the time , the venture capital firm had acquired a minority stake in UnionTech, saying it planned to launch a range of SLA materials, so its investment would give it a better understanding of their end-use effectiveness.

“We expect great technical advances in the field of stereolithography,” Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik’s venture capital unit, said last year. “Evonik is preparing to launch ready-to-use materials for this process. Our investment is therefore not only aimed at a profitable financial return, but above all at new perspectives in the use of this process.

Farsoon's FS421M metal 3D printers installed at the Falcontech Super AM factory.  Image via Falcontech.
UnionTech’s recent growth mirrors that of other Chinese 3D printer manufacturers like Farsoon. Image via Falcontech.

China’s Emerging AM Industry

While parts of the wider 3D printing industry are still recovering from the impact of COVID-19, there is evidence to suggest this is happening fastest in China, where adoption of the technology is really starting. to take off.

In November 2020, CONTEXT released figures suggesting that the Chinese and desktop 3D printing markets were leading the global post-pandemic recovery. While the analytics firm’s report showed a 38% drop in revenue for Western industrial 3D printer makers between the second quarter of 2019 and 2020, it found a 24% increase in Chinese shipments of similar systems from the first to second quarter 2020.

Moreover, the recent sales performance of one of the country’s leading 3D printer manufacturers, Farsoon Technologies, seems to suggest that this resurgence is continuing. The company posted record revenues in November 2021, bringing in $15 million from the sale of more than 40 machines, leading it to announce capacity expansion to meet its growing demand.

Elsewhere in desktop 3D printing, many top Chinese companies are unlisted, so it’s hard to gauge their business progress, but companies like Creality continue to expand their portfolios. This year alone, the company launched the HALOT-ONE, HALOT-SKY and HALOT-LITE systems, as well as its CR-SCAN 01 scanner, each designed to provide design users with high-end functionality at an affordable price.

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Featured image shows a UnionTech 3D printer factory. Image via UnionTech.

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