One of the key highlights we observed in our recap of 2022 is the growing number of companies that shut down their activities throughout the year. We reported that 8 companies shut down or filed for bankruptcy in 2022. Yet, at the time we wrote this article, the announcement of 3D Metalforge had not been released yet.
In December, the Singapore-based large additive manufacturing service bureau made orders in relation to the moratorium under Section 64 of the Insolvency Restructuring and Dissolution Act 2018 (“IRDA”) over its wholly owned Singaporean incorporated operating subsidiary, 3D Metalforge Pte Ltd.
The company is currently working with a reduced workforce in its operating subsidiaries. Whether it is its Singaporean subsidiary or its Houston one, notice has been given to terminate all staff employment contracts.
The Singaporean operating subsidiary will also terminate all independent contractor agreements. We know the company was involved in some interesting projects in the Oil and Gas industries as well as the Marine industries, sectors with a big potential for AM technologies.
For US- and Europe-based companies that shut down their activities, the economic downturn and marketing activities were quickly mentioned as the top reasons behind these cessations.
In this case, the fact that it is one of the large AM service bureaus in the region that is shutting down its activities raises a number of questions on the why, and the maturity of the market in this region.
Speculation is well underway in the community that reacts on LinkedIn:
“Singapore is a tough market for private 3DP services, high operational costs, low demand and small internal budgets on the client side… plus super accessible supply chain for traditional part manufacturing both locally and across the strait in Malaysia. Then there is the national additive manufacturing network that connects all the academic 3D printing resources in the country to deliver services to the industry, competing directly with private service bureaus with their lower costs and subsidies to incentivise companies”, Benoît Valin comments.
According to Ashok H. Varma, despite the well-known hurdles linked to AM adoption, 3D MetalForge was facing a different range of issues:
“ 1. focusing on an extremely small regional market such as Singapore with some approach to Malaysia.
2. achieving less than $ 100,000 in revenue even after the public offering and some decent cash investment
3. Compare to, for example, Sintavia, thriving and growing like mad, similarly Incodema and Morf3D, and Beehive, all straight forward metal AM services companies, no equipment, just making parts. I believe collectively just these three companies I mentioned have profitable revenues in aggregate > $ 50M.
4. It is about execution, leadership, management, the right teams, choosing the right verticals and regions, the right technologies, the right applications. Almost any services company in metal AM will make good profits and growth with these fundamentals, and in fact, three of the Indian metal AM service bureaus now are all profitable and at a steep growth curve.
5. The technology has been accepted very widely. Need to find and focus on those users, while evangelizing new users.”
Each of these comments is worth taking into account. At the end of the day, a company operating in Singapore will not deal with the same hurdles than another one operating in the US or in a European country. Knowing its market is important, being able to take advantage of each of its peculiarities is what can make any company stand out from the crowd.
Right now, staff in 3D Metalforge LLC are mainly employed on an “at will” basis, and so will cease work at any time. Appropriate arrangements will be made with customers for the discharge of current obligations of 3D Metalforge and Matthew Waterhouse, current CEO, will remain as an employee but has agreed to waive salary during this period.
Last but not least, despite this end of story, one should not forget to acknowledge 3D Metalforge’s efforts in fostering the adoption of AM. I in any case, I do, and I wish the founding team the very best in their next endeavours.
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