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.