General Electric Co., continuing to buy its way into the supply chain technology space, said today it has acquired a 75-percent stake in Concept Laser GmbH, a German three-dimensional (3-D) printing company, for nearly $600 million. The deal allows Boston-based GE to take full control of Concept Laser within an undetermined number of years.
The move comes six weeks after GE acquired the rail shipment reporting company ShipXpress Inc. in an effort to expand its presence in the supply chain software segment. GE is undergoing a massive transformation from a traditional industrial concern to what it calls a "digital industrial" company that will integrate information technology into its manufacturing processes. GE has said it hopes to be a top 10 software company by 2020.
Concept Laser specializes in the branch of 3-D printing known as metal additive manufacturing. The firm designs and manufacturers powder-bed-based laser additive manufacturing machines for customers in the aerospace, medical, and dental industries, as well as the automotive and jewelry sectors. The company is headquartered in Lichtenfels, Germany, with additional offices in China and U.S. operations in Grapevine, Texas.
Buying Concept Laser complements GE's existing strategy of extending the use of 3-D printed parts in its industrial equipment, GE said. Earlier this year, GE Aviation introduced its first additive jet engine component into airline service when it began using 3-D printers to make the complex fuel-nozzle interiors for its LEAP jet engine.
Once the Concept Laser deal closes, GE said it will make significant investments in Lichtenfels, which will remain Concept Laser's headquarters and become a new German center for GE.
"GE shares our vision regarding the potential for additive manufacturing to lead the digital transformation of industrial production," Concept Laser founder and CEO Frank Herzog said in a statement. Herzog will continue as CEO of Concept Laser after the deal closes, and will assume a senior leadership position within GE.
"Concept Laser machines are being used by leading manufacturers of medical, aerospace, and dental components in series production as well as for prototyping and design," Herzog said. "We are hitting an inflection point in demand as customers increasingly understand the possibilities that additive manufacturing presents and the technology advances to be able to turn these possibilities into reality. With GE's broader investment into additive manufacturing, we believe that this process will only accelerate."
At the same time, GE said it had scrapped a proposal to buy SLM Solutions Group GmbH, another German 3-D printing firm, after failing to receive sufficient backing from GE shareholders.
"GE was very aware of Concept Laser for a long time, but knew the management of SLM better because we are a large SLM customer," said Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for Cincinnati-based GE Aviation, in an email. "We began discussing the Concept Laser [deal] with Mr. Herzog about a month ago, while the SLM tender offer was transpiring. You enter [these] discussions and transactions not quite knowing the outcome."