Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF), a 3D printing original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specializing in microscale platforms, raised $24 million in its Series D financing round, following its $43 million Series C round announced in July, 2022. The Series D round was led by Guotai Junan Securities Co. of Shanghai, one of China’s largest investment banks.
In addition to bolstering its marketing efforts and “strengthen[ing] its global collaborations” in high-value sectors like medtech, BMF states that it will use its latest funding influx to support the robust R&D program behind the company’s unique Projection Micro Stereolithography (PµSL) technology. Along with an R&D center in its hometown of Boston, one in Tokyo, and two in China (Chongqing and Shenzhen), BMF also opened the San Diego Research Institute (SDRI) in September, 2022.
BMF’s microArch 3D printers operate with micrometer (μm) resolution, including what the company touts as the highest-resolution 3D printing platform on the market, which can produce parts with features at the 2μm scale. As such, BMF has a significant edge in any vertical that prioritizes precision above all else, like medical devices, microfluidics, and electronics.
In a press release about its $24 million Series D round, BMF’s CEO-Global, John Kawola, said, “We’ve proven we can meet the needs of our customers, but we know that our technology can do more. Through our Research Institute in San Diego and multiple efforts on other projects being developed globally, we’re entering an era of self-driven innovation to identify new opportunities that are uniquely enabled by our technology. This funding ensures we can continue our unwavering commitment to our customers and partners, while giving us the resources to power new innovation.” The co-founder and CEO of BMF, Xiaoning He, said, “Miniaturization, precision, and complexity of devices are the major trends in industrial development. Despite this market pressure, traditional manufacturing processes struggle at the smaller scale companies are now demanding. BMF’s technology can play an essential role in meeting this need.”
Although almost all of the materials compatible with BMF platforms are polymers, two of the company’s printers — including one of the highest-resolution machines, the microArch S230 — are compatible with ceramic. This is noteworthy not only because of the potential for growth in the semiconductor sector associated with the capability for ceramics AM, but also insofar as it hints at the possibility that BMF’s greater R&D efforts could lead the company to embrace a more diverse range of materials down the road.
The more that 3D printing is associated with applications like producing metal parts for the next version of the Apple Watch Ultra, the higher is the likelihood that BMF, among others, is seriously considering the cultivation of a metals portfolio. That also makes the company’s emphasis on its R&D center in San Diego especially intriguing, given how important that city is to the US semiconductor ecosystem.
Finally, perhaps the most notable aspect of the announcement is that it came just a day after the Biden administration issued an executive order targeting US investments in four high-tech areas, including chips and microelectronics. Considering how globalized BMF’s operations are — and in this context, the company’s two Chinese R&D centers (including one in the “Chinese Silicon Valley”, Shenzhen) are specifically relevant — such efforts by the Biden administration might be expected to pose quite a challenge.
Instead, regardless of the uncertainty outside of the US, the fact that BMF has an R&D foothold in San Diego that can be supported by ample amounts of the company’s own funding highlights the resilience of its corporate strategy, as well as the possible importance of BMF’s technology to the emerging next era of US chip manufacturing. Indeed, the fact that the company’s Series D round was led by one of China’s largest investment banks may itself even highlight the extent to which the Biden administration’s policies are succeeding at reorganizing certain areas of US manufacturing back within the domestic ecosystem.
Images courtesy of Boston Micro Fabrication