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Manufacturing startup Carbon raises $260 million to bring 3D printing to everything from running shoes to autonomous car sensors

Business Insider | Jun 25, 2019, 06.30PM IST

Joe DeSimone

Carbon

Carbon cofounder and CEO Joseph DeSimone

  • Carbon, a manufacturing startup that lets companies outsource 3D printing capabilities, announced Tuesday it raised $260 million in Series E funding from Madrone Capital Partners and Baillie Gifford.
  • The round, which included several other existing investors such as Adidas Ventures and Sequoia Capital, values the company at more than $2.4 billion.
  • Carbon CEO and cofounder Joseph DeSimone told Business Insider that autonomous vehicle parts are some of the best candidates for 3D printing because they require more sophisticated sensors than regular vehicles, which cost startups millions to manufacture on their own.
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3D printing is turning out to be a billion-dollar business.

Carbon, a manufacturing startup that lets companies outsource 3D printing capabilities, announced on Tuesday it raised $260 million in Series E funding from Madrone Capital Partners and Baillie Gifford. The round, which included several other existing investors such as Adidas Ventures and Sequoia Capital, valued the company at more than $2.4 billion.

Carbon uses light "like a chisel" to create 3D objects without using a traditional cast and mold model, CEO and cofounder Joseph DeSimone told Business Insider. This model cuts production and prototyping time for product teams, and doesn't require the large financial commitment often associated with purchasing specialized molds.

"Casting and molding is like the printing press," DeSimone told Business Insider. "As the parts get more complicated, the molds and tools start to look like a machine. Those tools are very expensive and take forever to get your hands on. 3D printing means smaller teams can afford to make low volume products without amateuring products and tools."

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DeSimone points to autonomous vehicle companies as some of Carbon's biggest customers. Because the technology is more sophisticated than traditional vehicles, the casts and molds associated with the experimental sensors can cost over $1 million each and take months to arrive.

"Autonomous vehicles need eight times the number of sensors in a regular car," DeSimone said.

"Each one needs an injection molding tool and that slows everyone down, and each one has only limited designs you can make. If 90% of vehicle warranties are voided by electrical issues, it makes sense to have designs that are unmoldable to make better prototypes and design on the means of production."

To date, Carbon has helped some of the biggest names in consumer retail develop and produce new products, like running shoes for athletic brand Adidas, often with a sustainability proposition at heart. Next up, DeSimone said, is working with consumer giant Johnson & Johnson to develop recyclable materials for packaged goods like household cleaners.

"We are doing what Siemens and SAP want to do in our factory already," DeSimone said. "This is really setting the stage for a new economy with digital fabrication and 3D printing at scale."

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