Why did we invest in Ethereal Machines?

Market Opportunity

Ethereal Machines is part of the broad of tools and machinery market. This, being ancillary to the manufacturing industry, is a very large market across the world. Just 3D printing machinery and supplies have an immense impact on manufacturing across the world and the market was worth $32.8B in 2017. As the technology finds wider adoption in the world, newer specialized fields are emerging with rapid advancements in technology. 5-axis printing is one such new technology that has the potential to change industries and workflow.

One industry that has so far been impacted in a limited manner is the industry of medical implants. Increasingly, surgeons across the world are replacing human tissue with customized polymer and ceramic implants. These are deemed a much better solution than metal implants like a knee or hip replacement which are commonplace these days. Market for just craniomaxillofacial implants (that replaces bones in the head and face) is alone worth about $1.8B today, set to grow by more than 30% per year.

One of the founders’ many accolades

Founders of Ethereal

When we first met them, Navin and Kaushik had been at it for more than 3 years. Starting from their final year of engineering, they had been tinkering with CNC machines and 3D printers, sold a few and kept exploring what’s the best in the world until they stumbled upon the concept of 5-axis machines. They realized that there’s a strong need for a desktop size machine that can bring the benefits of 5-axis to smaller manufacturing units. The day is not far when such machines will be used by doctors and hospitals to make an implant next to the OTs.

But the big stumbling block for such democratization was the cost of making one such device. Apart from the mechanical parts and motors, these machines required a very heavy duty PLC to do calculations for Tool Center Point on a real-time basis. After many months of intense software and hardware work, they were able to do this on an off-the-shelf computing board powered by a general purpose processor. As a result of this innovation and a bunch of low-cost development, they were able to reduce the price of their first Halo machine by almost 85% with 5-axis cutting (CNC) thrown in as an additional feature. This innovation was awarded as top in CES 2018 in 3D printing category.

Why back this team?

Whenever we meet an entrepreneur who is solving a unique problem, the question we always ask is if her approach and vision is simultaneously scalable and world-class? Also, is there a large enough market to tackle? Both questions result in a resounding affirmative in case of Kaushik and Navin. We are proud to be backers of another unique IndiaTech opportunity, hoping to continue the legacy of GreyOrange in Blume portfolio.

Are there obvious pitfalls? Yes, obviously. The market may not respond to Halo as projected and their upcoming Pentagram may not work as expected. It is also possible that a cheaper (Chinese?) import may flood the market. Or our team is unable to scale globally. But those are the risks worth taking, in our humble opinion.

This is the moment for Navin, Kaushik and team to shine under the Sun, we formally welcome them to our portfolio.