GE to buy 75% in German 3D printing maker Concept Laser for $599 mn

US industrial conglomerate General Electric (GE) today struck a deal to buy a controlling 75-per cent stake in German 3D printing manufacturer Concept Laser GmbH for $599 million (€549 million).

The agreement allows GE to take full ownership in a number of years.

The move comes a day after GE abandoned its €683-million ($762 million) takeover offer for German 3D printer maker SLM Solutions Group after activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp opposed the deal. (See: GE abandons €683 mn takeover of German 3D printer maker SLM Solutions) With its more than 20 per cent in SLM Solutions, Elliott Management was using this as a leverage in blocking the deal in a bid to extract a better offer, although GE's €38 per share offer was a 37-per cent premium over the closing price the day prior to the original announcement.

GE refused and said it had no intention of sweetening the offer further, nor would it extend the deadline, and instead opted to buy Concept Laser.

It, however, raised its bid yesterday and lowered its minimum acceptance condition for Swedish 3D printer maker Arcam, in which Elliott also owns a 10-per cent stake.

Privately-held Lichtenfels, Germany-based Concept Laser is a pioneer in the field of metal additive manufacturing and has more than 200 employees at its operations in the US, China, and a global network of more than 35 distributors and agents.

Concept Laser designs and manufacturers powder bed-based laser additive manufacturing machines.  Its customer base is focused on the aerospace, medical and dental industries, with a presence also in automotive and jewelry industry.

''Concept Laser founder Frank Herzog and his team are true pioneers in metal laser melting technology,'' said David Joyce, GE vice chairman and president & CEO of GE Aviation.  ''We are committed to enhancing Concept Laser's technologies and product offerings across a well-established customer base.''

Herzog will continue as CEO of Concept Laser and will also assume a senior leadership position within GE.

In order to support the growth potential of the business, GE has committed to invest into Lichtenfels, which will continue to be Concept Laser's headquarters and will become a new German center for GE.

''Concept Laser machines are being used by leading manufacturers of medical, aerospace and dental components in series production as well as for prototyping and design. We are hitting an inflection point in demand as customers increasingly understand the possibilities that additive manufacturing presents and the technology advances to be able to turn these possibilities into reality.  With GE's broader investment into additive manufacturing, we believe that this process will only accelerate,'' said Herzog.

Additive manufacturing (also called 3D printing) involves taking digital designs from computer aided design (CAD) software, and laying horizontal cross-sections to manufacture the part.

Additive components are typically lighter and more durable than traditional forged parts because they require less welding and machining.  Because additive parts are essentially ''grown'' from the ground up, they generate far less scrap material.  Freed of traditional manufacturing restrictions, additive manufacturing dramatically expands the design possibilities for engineers.

GE has invested around $1.5 billion in manufacturing and additive technologies at its Global Research Center, which has developed additive applications across six GE businesses.