XponentialWorks opens new manufacturing facility to aid commercialisation efforts of start-up network

XponentialWorks has announced the opening of a new manufacturing facility at its Ventura-based Innovation Labs.

The development has seen floor space double and could create more than 100 high-tech and high-skilled jobs within the next 12 months. It coincides with the increasing commercial presence of the venture firm’s portfolio companies. As of June 2019, ParaMatters, Nexa3D and NXT Factory are all now shipping their products.

XponentialWorks was founded in 2015 by former 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental to assist a selection of start-up companies in developing and commercialising new additive manufacturing and industry 4.0 technologies. It also boasts partnerships with more experienced companies, helping to digitally transform those businesses, while linking them with its network of upstarts to test products, generate use case studies, and offer advice.

These upstarts are typically recruited and brought under the XponentialWorks umbrella, some taking up the offer of relocating to Ventura from places like Krakow, Poland (NXT Factory) or Rome, Italy (Nexa 3D), and others remaining at home. The outlier in this regard within XponentialWorks’ eight-strong portfolio is ParaMatters, a generative design software company founded by Reichental and Michael Bogomolny on the back of a napkin.

Five of the eight – ParaMatters, Nexa 3D, NXT Factory, Apollo Robotics, and Centaur – have residence in Ventura, with medical wears company Unyq based elsewhere in the States, medical device firm Supercraft 3D headquartered in India, and e-Sports platform Blink operating out of Israel. All of these companies receive financial and marketing support, while the Ventura residents also share the same supply chain, manufacturing and packaging operations. “What’s the value of each younger company diluting themselves? Let’s build it once and serve everybody,” Reichantal reasoned at RAPID + TCT 2019.

With the expansion in Ventura now complete – the company’s third third one in 24 months, by the way – the XponentialWorks portfolio will have more room to manoeuvre in the R&D of new products and the manufacture and shipping of current ones, as well as welcoming an influx of talent to help drive the companies forward.

“Our ongoing growth and expansion validates our initial site selection in Ventura and reflects the growing needs of our portfolio companies and the resilience and endurance of our unique business model,” commented Reichental. “Each of our portfolio companies now has greater resources to develop, manufacture and scale their commercialisation efforts and more importantly, more opportunity to collaborate and collide with other start-ups and mature companies that together are developing game-changing solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges.”

From start-ups to grown-ups

Earlier this summer, XponentialWorks descended on Detroit for RAPID + TCT 2019, showcasing three portfolio upstarts for what might be the last time on North American soil.

Having taken in the morning keynote as a collective, in which Todd Grimm mentioned all three in his round-up of new and exciting technologies being presented at the show, Reichental gathered in a circle the teams of ParaMatters, Nexa 3D and NXT Factory.

“Listen, we came here as start-ups probably for the last time. We’re going to leave as grown-ups from here. We have unique capabilities, we’re exhibiting like grown-ups, and we’re being noticed as grown-ups for the first time.”

It was a significant point in the journey of what is essentially four start-ups being built up at the same time – more when you take into account the five other companies in the portfolio. In May, it was the first trade show where all three upstarts were ready to take orders of its products. ParaMatters had been shipping its software for some time, but Nexa 3D and NXT Factory would only begin delivering its respective SLA and SLS platforms the following month, in June. It was thus, the first time all three were exposed to the most forensic scrutiny. The products on the stand were the products that would be going into the hands of industry.  

“After three and a half years of blood, sweat, tears, hard work, we come here and it’s a perfect place for us to launch because you get a lot of good feedback, you meet highly qualified, potential clients, resellers, but also practitioners that look at it and know what they’re looking at, and give us really quality feedback,” Reichental posited.

He likens RAPID + TCT to a family reunion in that respect, people he’s known for more than a decade coming to assess his new venture, and the products of that venture, and giving very honest opinions on them. Among those feedbackers were a string of representatives from automotive companies, who, according to Reichental, were suitably impressed with the NXT Factory Quantum Laser Sintering’s (QLS) ability to process thermoplastics at speeds of 4,200 ccm per hour. Nexa 3D, the SLA vendor, is similarly promising parts at speed with the ability to print up to one cm in the Z axis per minute. Both are calling on the chemical experts that have entered the industry in recent years to optimise materials for the platforms. ParaMatters, meanwhile, is being pitched as a one-click solution for additive design with the belief that there is only ever one optimal solution. The algorithms, therefore, provide a single ready-to-use, ready-to-manufacture STL file, and also automatically push this design through a finite element analysis process.

Reichental has enjoyed hosting the three companies on his XponentialWorks booth over the last few months, introducing them and their offerings to the industry, but such is the landscape his company, is preparing for the next step. There are other businesses waiting in the wings. Unyq has revealed 3D printing use cases in the medical and consumer markets this year, Apollo Robotics was name-dropped in XponentialWorks’ facility expansion press release, and Supercraft 3D is working with multiple additive manufacturing technologies to produce surgical models, medical devices and orthopaedics.

But for these firms to take their place at on the XponentialWorks booth, the current crop must first perform in a competitive market. Fortunately for the next generation, the three that are currently occupying that space have just had their facilities expanded and are about to see their technical aptitude grow too.

“At a certain point in time – in success – these guys leave the nest and we begin to bring the next in,” Reichental explained. “We will nurture and mentor up to a point and at a certain time each one of them will have their own [booth]. We have our own ranking, where it’s going and how we allocate resources, but this is work in progress. We have not perfected it because we are doing it in real time and it’s hard enough to build one company, we’re building, concurrently, multiple companies [but] we think we have created something really magical.”

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