Stratasys Acquires GrabCAD

Stratasys Acquires GrabCAD: Analysis and Implications

3D printer company Stratasys announced today of definite plans to acquire Cambridge, Mass.-based GrabCAD. GrabCAD is known for spearheading efforts to create an “open engineering” environment that allows engineers to share 3D CAD models. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the price is estimated to be about $100 million. This is the latest in a string of acquisitions by Stratasys. Previous notable additions include MakerBot last year for $403 million and Solid Concepts earlier this year for $295 million. GrabCAD co-founder and CEO Hardi Meybaum will continue to head GrabCAD within the Stratasys group operations.

Since its launch in 2010, GrabCAD has amassed a user base of 1.5 million mechanical designers and a database of 520,000 3D CAD models, ranging from novelty items and toys to guns to complex models of gearboxes and 5-axis CNC machines. However, revenues of the venture-backed company did not track this trajectory.

On its surface, the acquisition of GrabCAD gives Stratasys some interesting additions, well articulated in the company’s press release:

Knowledge: With the addition of GrabCAD, Stratasys gains an industry leading team of software professionals with a deep understanding of the needs of designers and engineers.

Products: GrabCAD’s cloud-based collaboration platform, Workbench, will enable Stratasys to offer customers a solution to drive communication and ease of use throughout the design and 3D printing process. GrabCAD also provides Stratasys with the opportunity to further partner with CAD vendors and other ecosystem partners while offering innovative collaboration tools related to 3D CAD.

Community: GrabCAD has built a global, leading and fast growing community of mechanical engineers and designers, with 1.5 million users who are passionate about design. This includes a large online community of M-CAD users and a significant public online repository of free CAD files, with more than 500,000 CAD designs available for download and nearly 50,000 file downloads per day.

The long-term value for GrabCAD and its user community isn’t as straightforward. The company will certainly enjoy deeper pockets and additional resources, but the ability to align the open-source community and the hardware business may prove challenging. While some synergy within the hobbyist and “makers” communities of both companies is feasible, the path on the more industrial and professional side may prove more challenging, especially when it comes to sharing 3D models and design IP.

What remains to be seen is how Stratasys, which, after all, is a hardware company whose primary business is selling 3D printers and consumables, going to leverage GrabCAD’s major asset—an active community of 3D designers and engineers—to drive additional product and services revenue.

To realize the full potential of the acquisition, Stratasys will have to:

  • Work diligently to maintain the collaboration and open source culture of the GrabCAD community.
  • Continue to develop GrabCAD’s Workbench tool and drive greater awareness and confidence in its ability to facilitate “industrial strength” collaboration and IP management environment.
  • Use this foundation to support and deliver additional services—both organically and through partnership—that are not directly dependent on Stratasys 3D hardware and materials.