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BLT reports +34% revenue growth to $170M in FY 2023

The Chinese metal AM company sold 242 machines while the material business doubled

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Chinese metal AM company BLT achieved revenue of around $170 million (USD) in FY 2023 making it by far the largest player by revenues in the APAC region and one of the largest in the world. The company’s financial performance in 2023 was significant if we compare it with generally slow sales by Western companies, with only EOS and SLM Solutions currently experiencing significant growth.

The $170 million in revenues represents a robust 34.24% increase compared to the previous year, as the company demonstrated its resilience and agility in navigating challenging market conditions. The net income attributed to shareholders witnessed a significant rise, soaring to approx. $19.6 million, marking a notable increase of 78.11% year-over-year.

Revenue breakdown by industries reveals a strong foothold in key sectors: Aerospace & Aviation comprising 56.02%, Industry with 37.32%, and Research Institutes contributing 5.64%. Revenue from customized 3D printing products, self-developed 3D printing equipment, and 3D printing raw materials saw significant increases of 34.45%, 26.46%, and an impressive 98.98% respectively compared to the prior year. This growth can be attributed to BLT’s continued emphasis on the aerospace sector, coupled with its proactive exploration of new markets and applications (Exchange Rate: 1 USD = 7.23 CNY, March 28, 2024).

A comprehensive metal AM solution provider

As of December 31, 2023, BLT boasted a workforce of 1,720 employees, with approximately 30% dedicated to research and development efforts. The company’s extensive infrastructure, comprising over 440 sets of additive manufacturing equipment, and over 120 sets of complementary analysis and testing equipment, solidified its position as the largest metal additive manufacturing industrial base in the world for a metal AM service provider.

At its core, BLT specializes in industrial-grade metal additive manufacturing, offering customers a comprehensive solution for their metal additive manufacturing needs. By utilizing its own metal additive manufacturing equipment, the company provides customers with design, production, and related technical services for customized metal 3D printed products, primarily applied in aerospace, industrial machinery, energy and power, research institutions, medical research, automotive manufacturing, and the electronics industry. Last year BLT produced 299 LPBF equipment and sold a total of 242 sets domestically and internationally.

BLT FY 2023 achievements

In 2023, metal additive manufacturing transitioned into a “mass production era,” reflecting the growing demand for batch production. BLT responded to this trend by making significant technological advancements, thereby contributing to the higher-quality evolution of the industrial manufacturing sector.

To meet the substantial demand from aerospace and aviation industries for large-scale metal additive manufacturing equipment suited to batch production, BLT introduced new platform solutions in 2023. These include the BLT-S615, BLT-S815, and the BLT-S1500, featuring 26 lasers and an extra-large format. The development of large-format equipment addresses the varied production requirements of aerospace customers, accommodating the manufacturing of both large and medium-sized components, as well as small-batch production of large components.

Efficient powder recycling is imperative for batch production in the “mass production era” of metal additive manufacturing. BLT has introduced diverse and efficient powder recycling solutions tailored to different production scenarios. For instance, multiple devices can be equipped with a production line-based powder recycling solution, while an integrated powder recycling solution can be provided for the continuous production of large equipment. These solutions not only significantly reduce production costs but also meet users’ demands for factory production line efficiency.

During FY 2023, BLT also unveiled several high-temperature alloys and titanium alloy materials tailored for the aerospace sector, leveraging the unique characteristics of metal additive manufacturing. Specifically designed for Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) processes, BLT introduced high-temperature alloy materials like BLT-In738, addressing challenges such as susceptibility to cracking and low density of formed parts during LPBF. These materials find applications in critical components like aerospace engines and gas turbines. BLT-Ti64 powder showcases remarkable mechanical properties and corrosion resistance, while BLT-Ti exhibits moderate mechanical characteristics, high plasticity, and excellent corrosion resistance, both suitable for aerospace and other industries. Furthermore, BLT-Ti2AlNb powder and BLT-Ti65 powder have surpassed the limitations of traditional titanium alloys, typically used below 600°C, and can now be employed in high-performance aerospace components. Additionally, BLT introduced BLT-TiAl4822 powder designed for Powder Metallurgy (PM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM) processes. This innovation is anticipated to partially replace nickel-based high-temperature alloys, resulting in significant weight reduction for high-temperature structural components in aerospace engines.

Drawing upon its extensive industry chain advantages, the company has delved into innovations across equipment, powder, printing path planning, and process parameter adjustment. In 2023, BLT introduced the support-free technique, enabling the printing of structures with angles of less than 30° without the need for additional support. Since its introduction, this technique has been implemented in numerous industrial batch production processes, leading to decreased labor and energy consumption during post-processing procedures and ensuring efficient production cycles.

BLT reports +34% revenue growth to $170M in FY 2023, as the Chinese metal AM company sold 242 machines while the material business doubled

Finally, during FY 2023, BLT also established a software ecosystem tailored for a production line that could comprise over a hundred metal additive manufacturing machines.

BLT-BP V2.0, designed for the pre-processing stage, is compatible with the entire range of BLT equipment. It is tailored to fit BLT equipment packed with dozens of laser configurations, catering specifically to large-scale production scenarios such as shoe molds and electronics. It comes with customized high-efficiency parameter schemes to comprehensively enhance pre-processing efficiency.

The BLT-MCS equipment control software is highly tailored, boasting industry-specific modules for aerospace, engines, energy, automotive (including electric vehicles), electronics, molds, and scientific research. It caters to the needs of quality control, traceability, and efficiency enhancement in large-scale production settings. It continually refines functions like intelligent powder spreading, 3D reconstruction, visual correction, and automated integration.

The BLT-MES 2.0 production line management tool is tailored for large-scale production, drawing from the extensive experience in establishing production lines and analyzing data from hundreds of machines. It facilitates remote task deployment and seamless cross-process data tracing, effectively connecting the entire production workflow. The IoT module enables functionalities like data collection and real-time reporting, seamlessly integrates with third-party software, incorporates metal 3D printing processes into industrial manufacturing production, and lays the groundwork for an overall intelligence upgrade in the manufacturing sector, thereby driving down technical costs.

BLT reports +34% revenue growth to $170M in FY 2023, as the Chinese metal AM company sold 242 machines while the material business doubled

BLT Europe GmbH commenced operations, marking a significant milestone in BLT’s global expansion efforts and enabling the provision of tailored services for international clientele. BLT and BLT Europe GmbH signed distributor agreements with partners in key markets, including South Korea, Japan, Poland, and Nigeria, to collaborate on various aspects such as market application development, equipment sales, material sales, and technical consulting.

These endeavors aim to enable a broader international audience to experience the boundless potential of metal additive manufacturing technology in revolutionizing the global manufacturing industry, thereby advancing the globalization of the “era of mass production” in metal additive manufacturing.

Key 2023 company highlights

On March 1st and 2nd, 2023, Interstellar Glory (i-Space) successfully conducted two semi-system joint tests of its hundred-ton-class liquid oxygen methane rocket engine “JD-2” under real media conditions. BLT played a crucial role in this achievement by assisting the development team in printing several pipe and turbine pump components for the “JD-2” liquid engine. This collaboration not only helped to reduce costs but also significantly improved efficiency. Moreover, the thrust chamber injector of the “JD-2” made its debut at the 2023 Formnext Germany Exhibition and the TCT Asia 2023 BLT booth, garnering considerable attention from prospective customers.

In May of FY 2023, BLT held a groundbreaking ceremony for its large-scale intelligent production base project for metal additive manufacturing, known as the Fourth Phase Project. The Fourth Phase Project aims to establish high-quality metal 3D printing powder production lines, as well as efficient and high-precision production lines for customized metal 3D printing products. The construction will include the development of production workshops and factories, with a total construction area of approximately 163,200 square meters. The Third Phase Project at BLT officially commenced on July 22, 2022. The initiation of the Fourth Phase Project represents a significant milestone in BLT’s development journey, marking the expansion of metal additive manufacturing technology into new application domains and the transition from customized research and development to industrial-scale applications.

BLT reports +34% revenue growth to $170M in FY 2023, as the Chinese metal AM company sold 242 machines while the material business doubled

Also in May, 2023, BLT achieved a significant milestone as its 1000th LPBF (Laser Powder Bed Fusion) equipment, the BLT-S815, smoothly passed the customer acceptance test. In the production of the 1000 LPBF equipment, a total of approximately 3000 sets of laser systems were assembled, accumulating extensive experience in developing the multi-laser technology. Its stability and high efficiency have earned accolades from clients across diverse industries. In addition BLT and Siemens signed a strategic cooperation agreement, establishing a long-term strategic partnership. This signing will see both parties collaborating in areas such as exploring digital factory construction and the research and development of metal additive manufacturing equipment. Siemens will provide the latest automation and drive products, along with corresponding support services, while BLT will focus on application technology development for these products.

The company has marked the opening of a new Research and Development center in Shanghai to support its metal additive manufacturing (AM) development initiatives. Covering the East China region, the center focuses on various application domains including electronics, smart hardware, industrial machinery, biomedicine, civilian drones, commercial aerospace, molds, new energy, and robotics. Leveraging BLT’s expertise in metal 3D printing technology, the center aims to facilitate the seamless integration of metal 3D printing technology with industrial manufacturing, thus spearheading the upgrade and innovation of the manufacturing industry.

Shortly thereafter, the “SLM-compatible thoracolumbar spinal artificial vertebral body,” developed in collaboration with BLT’s partner, Dimension Bio, successfully passed the review conducted by the National Medical Products Administration of China. This achievement marked the attainment of the first domestic registration certificate for Class III medical devices within the spine fusion system category.

BLT reports +34% revenue growth to $170M in FY 2023, as the Chinese metal AM company sold 242 machines while the material business doubled

In November 2023, Dimension Bio, a partner of BLT, achieved a significant milestone with the launch of the hydroxyapatite-coated porous titanium alloy intervertebral fusion device, known as WedocageTM. This innovative device received market approval and obtained the Class III medical device registration certificate from the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA). Notably, it is the world’s first 3D-printed porous titanium alloy intervertebral fusion device with a biologically active coating. BLT’s cutting-edge equipment and printing technology played a pivotal role in supporting Dimension Bio’s research and development endeavors in the medical device field, providing strong momentum for its innovative initiatives.

Also during FY 2023, on January 11, 2024, Oriental Space’s independently developed “Gravity 1” Carrier Rocket achieved a significant milestone by successfully entering its designated orbit with three satellites on board. The mission was completed with resounding success, marking a triumph for the space exploration endeavor. BLT played a crucial role in this achievement through its innovative Directed Energy Deposition (DED) technology, which enabled the near-net forming of large-sized irregular structural components. This approach not only reduced part production cycles and costs but also shortened development timelines while significantly improving material utilization and reducing manufacturing expenses. BLT’s support extended further to batch production for customers, utilizing multiple additive manufacturing devices to simultaneously print multiple parts. The consistent quality and performance of the formed parts met the stringent requirements for aerospace applications, thus contributing to the flawless launch of the “Gravity 1” rocket.

During the same month, LandSpace achieved a significant milestone with the successful maiden flight of the ZQ-3 VTVL-1 reusable rocket, designed for large-scale vertical takeoff and landing recovery validation. BLT played a crucial role in this achievement by 3D printing multiple key stainless steel and high-temperature alloy components for the VTVL-1 test rocket. Leveraging its mature technology, expertise, efficient and intelligent equipment, as well as high-quality powder materials, BLT ensured the timely delivery of a batch of high-quality parts to the customer. These parts successfully passed customer validation, thereby contributing to the successful launch of the VTVL-1 test rocket.

Guided by the end-use applications of its parts, BLT has constructed a comprehensive ecosystem for metal additive manufacturing during FY 2023. This ecosystem encompasses metal AM equipment, printing materials, innovative software suite, inventive part designs, and technical services, delivering complete metal AM solutions to its customers. Fueled by market demand, BLT adheres to the ethos of “making what can be made, and making it affordable,” thereby realizing its aspiration to integrate metal 3D printing into countless factories and catalyze the ongoing transformation and enhancement of the manufacturing sector.

Looking ahead, BLT is well-positioned to navigate the evolving landscape of additive manufacturing and propel the industry toward a new era characterized by innovation and efficiency.

 

 

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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