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Somerville 3-D startup buys Canadian firm

Formlabs CEO says purchase will help move printers into schools

A Formlabs 3-D printer was displayed at a recent Las Vegas convention.ROBYN BECK

Somerville-based startup Formlabs, maker of tabletop 3-D printers in a signature neon-orange, has acquired a Canadian company whose online community for 3-D printing fans attracts designers and engineers.

Formlabs said Tuesday it had acquired Pinshape in a deal whose terms were not disclosed. Pinshape was founded in 2013 and has eight employees in its Vancouver office.

A spinoff of the MIT Media Lab, Formlabs has become one of the fastest-growing manufacturing startups in Greater Boston. Since raising nearly $3 million with a Kickstarter campaign, the company has received up to $21 million in venture capital, according to cofounder and chief executive Maxim Lobovsky.


Formlabs makes 3-D printers that can turn digital renderings into tangible objects using an industrial-grade process called stereolithography. In this process, high-precision lasers are focused on liquid resin, which causes a thin layer of the resin to solidify and turn into the desired shape.

Since their printers are considered an affordable alternative to industrial models — retailing between $2,799 and $3,300 — Formlabs targets professionals in design, art, science, and even dentistry, selling a dental-grade resin that can be used to make orthodontic correctives such as surgical guides.

Pinshape has built an online community of more than 90,000 3-D printing enthusiasts, who use the platform to sell original designs, interact with each other in forums, and collaborate on projects.

Lobovsky, who used a Formlabs printer to create the mold for his wife's wedding ring, said the acquisition will help build a "3-D ecosystem" for designers and teachers who want to use the printer as a classroom tool.

"The biggest opportunity with Pinshape isn't for our existing customers," Lobovsky said, "but for the larger 3-D printing community. 3-D printing is bigger than Formlabs, and we want to be able to support these communities and talk to the larger 3-D printing world."


Formlabs says it has doubled sales since releasing its newest Form 2 model printer last September. The company has 160 employees working in Somerville and Germany.

Formlabs agreed to pay 8 percent of net annual sales to an established 3-D printing company that filed a patent infringement suit in 2014.

Amanda Burke can be reached at amanda.burke@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @charlie_acb.