If you’re wondering where major manufacturers think the future of 3D printing might lie, you should consider the $81 million that GE, BMW, Nikon and Japanese manufacturer JSR just invested in Carbon, a 3D printing startup.
Carbon already snagged $100 million in funding in a round led by GV/Google Ventures last year. The company now has $220 million in funding, a market valuation that could be as high as $1 billion.
Carbon released its first printer in the spring. The M1 uses the company’s continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) technology. Similar to SLA printing, the technology uses light and oxygen to cure a photosensitive resin. This eliminates layering, and could accelerate the speed of manufacturing using the technology.
A transparent, permeable window allows light and oxygen to reach the resin. The machine can control the exact amount of oxygen that reaches the resin pool, creating zones within the resin where curing is inhibited. The printer can project a series of cross-sectional images in UV light on the resin to initiate the curing process. The object emerges from the resin pool, rather than be printed in layers.
The printers also operate on an “Internet-connected architecture,” so users receiving ongoing enhancements and new features.
According to Carbon’s CEO Joseph DeSimone, having companies like Nikon on its investor list will help open doors in foreign markets.
“Sixty percent of the market is overseas,” he told Fortune. “Having these partners placed globally will allow us to move in that direction.”
Ford is already testing Carbon’s printers for making part prototypes, and BMW has employed them to make custom name tags affixed to cars in its DriveNow ride-sharing business in Europe. Auto supplier Delphi is also using the printers.
The company has shipped 92 printers, and expects to deliver another 500 next year. The printers are offered for a $40,000 annual subscription price for a minimum of three years.