3D Systems Acquires Alibre

Today 3D Systems announced its acquisition of Alibre. Here is an email interview I did with 3D Systems President and CEO, Abe Reichental (who also happens to be my boss), on the Alibre acquisition.

Deelip: Unlike the companies 3D Systems acquired in the past two years, the last few acquisitions haven’t been service bureaus. In fact, after Sycode, Alibre is the second pure software company that you have acquired. Has your acquisition strategy turned a corner? What were the main reasons for acquiring Alibre?

Abe: Today’s acquisition of Alibre is consistent with our strategy to democratize access and accelerate adoption of affordable 3D content-to-print solutions that empower professionals and consumers to create and make in 3D.  In line with that we acquired several service providers as a cornerstone for our on demand custom parts services business and expanded our print engine portfolio through the acquisition of Desktop Factory and Bits From Bytes. We believe that by adding meaningful design productivity tools and plugins to our portfolio, we make it easier and simpler for our users to access all of their design-to-manufacturing requirements in one place.

Deelip: So apart from a 3D printing company, 3D Systems has now become a CAD software vendor as well. Do you think the acquisition of Alibre will affect your company’s alliances with other CAD software vendors?

Abe: I don’t view 3D Systems as a CAD software vendor but rather as a provider of a seamless 3D content-to-print experience. Our aim is to augment and complement the excellent solutions that leading CAD providers deliver with meaningful and affordable productivity tools that deliver an integrated design-to-manufacturing experience for our users.

Deelip: What interested you more about Alibre? Their product or their customer base?

Abe: Deelip, the simple truth is it’s “both”.  Alibre developed powerful, affordable design productivity tools that enable many businesses to expand and complement their 3D content creation employee base as well as provide many professional designers and engineers “by day” with the option to bring home viable affordable tools that support their hobbies and entrepreneurial activities. We are keenly interested in expanding the utility and functionality of the Alibre tools in ways that serve this growing user base.

Deelip: Do you intend to rebrand Alibre and change its focus to 3D printing? Or are you going to let it continue to focus on the MCAD software market?

Abe: Our intention is to evolve Alibre from a company name into a powerful brand that delivers a complete suite of design productivity tools and services for the benefit of professionals, makers and consumers alike.

Deelip: Do you think it will be a good idea to give away Alibre Design Personal Edition for free? I mean, Autodesk is trying to get the attention of people in the Maker and DIY space with their free 123D, which quite frankly is easier to use than a traditional history based parametric modeling system like Alibre Design.

Abe: I am a fan and avid supporter of the 123D Autodesk initiative. I firmly believe that simple intuitive content creation and manipulation tools are a must have in our quest to democratize access and accelerate adoption. Most of today’s 3D content creation tools are designed for expert professional users and, by virtue of their complexity, limit adoption. I applaud the Autodesk initiative and hope to be able to make meaningful complementary contributions that make the entire 3D content-to-print experience intuitive and fun to use.

Deelip: Alibre has tried just about everything to fight their competition on price. They even slashed their prices to a fraction of what they were at one point. Clearly that strategy did not work for long since the prices are back up again. I am curious to know what you think about Alibre’s obsession with price and whether you are going to do anything about it.

Abe: My obsession is to deliver an outstanding 3D content-to-print experience to makers and professionals alike at prices that reflect the value we impart. A great deal can and will be learned from Alibre’s price elasticity experiments as well as from their most recent instant success with the launch of their new Alibre/3D Printers offering. I am committed to democratizing access and accelerating adoption of affordable 3D content-to-print solutions through programs and initiatives that are sustainable, scalable and profitable for our customers, stockholders and teammates.  Exceptional user experience and value proposition is how I intended to differentiate our offering in the marketplaces we serve.

Deelip: What would you like to say to existing customers of Alibre?

Abe: First and foremost; thank you for being on this journey with us… for your loyalty and your ongoing support over the years! We hope that you will afford us the opportunity to work with you, learn from you and enhance your overall creating and making experience by delivering to you the benefits of our expanded technology platform and resources.

  • d3print

    As I have said earlier, CAD integrated to 3d printing machine or software that would be nice. Now just waiting for that.

    Thanks,
    d3print

  • Boat081062

    If there is a question a person doesn’t not want to answer straight out just say so. Please don’t bore us with your business mumbo jumbo and fail to answer the question at all.

  • http://twitter.com/3DPerspectives 3D Perspectives blog

    Abe’s comment (“simple intuitive content creation and manipulation tools are a must have in our quest to democratize access and accelerate adoption”) is really interesting.

    Thanks for sharing Deelip! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/bluRaja Roger Haley

    Having been a somewhat less than satisfied Alibre customer for a couple of years, I am cautiously optimistic about what this means for the future of the product.

    That said, I hope 3DS makes some kind of move or give some indication of exactly what their intentions are soon – my maintenance subscription is up for renewal in a couple of months, and we’ve been considering making a change.

  • http://twitter.com/bluRaja Roger Haley

    Having been a somewhat less than satisfied Alibre customer for a couple of years, I am cautiously optimistic about what this means for the future of the product.

    That said, I hope 3DS makes some kind of move or give some indication of exactly what their intentions are soon – my maintenance subscription is up for renewal in a couple of months, and we’ve been considering making a change.

  • Avante

    The moment “democratic” comes too much too the front – I smell a rat.

  • Jay the CADCAM man

    Having listened to Abe Reichental speak in a group setting, I can attest to the fact he isn’t the most well spoken individual. As such, I have to assume Deelip’s questions weren’t submitted to Abe ahead of time and his polished answers were submitted in writing back to Deelip. Plus, these were the biggest softball questions anyone could ask. Sorry Deelip, but now that you are a 3D Systems “company man” I have to question your journalistic integrity.

  • Tom @ Quickparts

    Jay, I have a different opinion. Abe is very well spoken individual, he is a tremendous executive and a visionary leader. Also, Deelip’s integrity shouldn’t be questioned just because of the commercial connection. He is a good reporter.

  • http://www.deelip.com Deelip Menezes

    Funny. If these were “biggest softball questions” then why are people here complaining about him not answering them. ;-)

    Which part of “email interview” did you not get?

  • Proe-warsztat

    frankly speking, to me primary goal behind is to set new chanells of delivering and selling 3D printing solution by 3D System. Smart move, but question is if it will pay back in close future?

  • Zippity

    When trying to divine the answer to the question “why this acquisition?” one need ask only one follow-up: How do they make money off this?  The only really plausible answer is that this is an obvious play for the channel and customer base that Alibre represents – a fairly well-established worldwide channel and “tens of thousands” of customers.  The access being “democratized” is access to 3D Systems hardware for the Alibre customer base.  They’re not much concerned with making money from software sales – this is an incremental revenue play, not a strategic shift.

    Anyone have a more plausible answer?

  • Primora

    This is a short coming solution to kill any future actor who wants to come to the game. Bundling machine solutions with Software is not new, bundling a 3D Systems with it, is. It is clearly on the dark side of the investment that a Software developer for a machinist such as 3DS will not provide further revenue from that division but provide further shinyness on the machines when the Software is a real reference, and there Alibre is not a reference at all it is only a cheap CAD. Coming versions of Alibre will have to be really amazing to satisfy the demand of the RP markets and this is the bet 3D System is taking here. Hopefully for Alibre employees it will be a way to improve their quality and Software recognition within the markets, if only 3DS invest the money to make it even more shinyer, by this I mean to hire people who knows what a Software should do for today’s markets and their constant evolutions. To me Alibre is an archaic solution which cannot satisfy the high end user, only the beginners and without drastic improvement will not come close enough to Rhino for instance.

  • Jay

    “Coming versions of Alibre will have to be really amazing to satisfy the demand of the RP markets…” Alibre can’t even import STL files.

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