Global Inkjet Systems, which specialises in developing inkjet printhead drive electronics, ink systems and related software, has been acquired by Nano Dimension, an Israeli company that develops 3D-printed, or additively manufactured, electronics.
Nano Dimension paid US$ 18.1 million in cash to acquire GIS, with an additional sum between US$ 1.3m to US$ 10.7m also due in the next 27 months depending on GIS’ financial performance over that time.
GIS is based in Cambridge in the UK. The company was founded in 2006 by CEO Nick Geddes and technical director Jim Brotton, who passed away in 2017, leaving Geddes as the majority shareholder. Initially the company supported Xaar and Konica Minolta printheads, expanding over the years to add support for most inkjet heads currently available. By 2014 the company had launched its ink system components and in 2015 it introduced its Atlas software. It generated revenue for the 12 months ended March 31, 2021, of approximately US$ 10 million and a gross margin of 51%.
Nano Dimension says that GIS will continue to develop and sell its range of technology. Yoav Stern, chairman and chief executive officer of Nano Dimension, commented, “Combining forces and resources will enable growth for the integrated company at an accelerated pace. This merger will upgrade Nano Dimension’s product line with GIS’ innovative hardware and software. In parallel, our go-to-market network will expand GIS’ commercial horizon and customer base. The combination of both companies will further leverage the customer-focused culture across the entire organization.”
Stern noted, “GIS’ ink delivery technology and software are essential to any ink deposition methodology within our AME (additively manufactured electronics) and AM (additive manufacturing) solutions. GIS’ research and development roadmap will help us to deliver better resolution and higher productivity in our industrial 3D printing solutions.”
He added, “As a result of this acquisition, we will be able to improve our technology’s performance and time to market. The combined company will own and have access to innovative and yet-to-be-released printing technologies, providing value and leading-edge solutions tailored to our customers’ needs and giving us a clear competitive advantage.”
Nano Dimension was set up in 2012 in Ness-Ziona, Israel, by Amit Dror, who remains on the board having stepped down as CEO in January 2020 in four of Stern. Dror noted at the time, “While the company enjoys revenue growth, global recognition and increased adoption, I believe that we can do much better. After spending several months with Yoav, I concluded that he is the right person to lead us forward and have personally asked him to succeed me and realize the company’s full potential.”
The company’s flagship product is the DragonFly IV, which can print electronics boards in various shapes using two piezo inkjet heads. It prints two materials, a dielectric that forms the shapes; and a conductive ink with silver nano particles. It has a build size of 160 x 160 x 3mm and a resolution of 18 x 18 x 10 microns.
Towards the end of last year, Nano Dimension acquired Essemtec AG, based in Lucerne, Switzerland, a company that specialises in developing production equipment for electronic assembly. This includes equipment for placing and assembling electronic components on printed circuit boards (PCBs). Nano Dimension says that this acquisition lays the groundwork for the ability to place Microchips as part of additively manufactured electronics solution, which would be a significant step forward.
Stern explained, “Essemtec’s present products fit Nano Dimension’s PCB and PCB assembly markets, as well as the original equipment manufacturers verticals which we serve. As such, we hope to leverage the distribution channels and go-to-market efforts of both organizations. In parallel, our mutual vision is to merge the technologies of our micro-electronic 3D-fabrication machines for Hi-PEDs (Hi-Performance Electronic Devices) with Essemtec’s fuller suite of in-fabrication-process-equipment-assembly capabilities.”
Nano Dimension gained those micro-electronic 3D-fabrication machines through another acquistion, picking up NanoFabrica in April 2021 for a total ranging between US$ 54.9 million to US$ 59.4 million. The company is a major player in the field of precision digital manufacturing thanks largely to its Micro Adaptive Projection technology.
Also in April 2021, Nano Dimension acquired DeepCube, which specialises in advanced machine learning and deep learning technology. Stern has since said, “It is our intention to use our newly acquired deep learning based artificial intelligence technologies from our DeepCube acquisition to become the “robotic brains” for Essemtec systems. We expect this will improve yield and throughput and drive a more seamless integration with Nano Dimension’s Additively Manufactured Electronics systems.”
This is all part of Nano Dimension’s stated vision to create an artificial intelligence “distributed digital manufacturing application” rather than just machines as capital equipment. Stern adds, “The end goal is to reach a capability for maintaining an inventory of high-end PCB devices, micro-mechanical parts and Hi-PEDs in digital form: print and assemble them as you need them, where you need them, only the quantity you need, in the best quality at competitive prices, as it is done in highest yield and throughput possible for that point in time, specifically in high mix/low volume scenarios.”
This puts Nano Dimension right at the forefront of the additive manufacturing revolution. So far additive manufacturing is simply offering an alternative way of manufacturing components. But the ability to additively embed electronics goes far beyond this and will transform the way that we design and manufacture complete sub assemblies and products. The acquisition of GIS underscores how important inkjet technology is to additive manufacturing. It’s not yet clear if GIS will survive as a standalone entity or what impact that will have on the industrial inkjet market. You can find more details on both companies from globalinkjetsystems.com and nano-di.com.