August 25, 2015      

As 3D printing moves from prototyping to production uses, Google Ventures has provided $100 million in funding for Carbon3D Inc.

Carbon3D said its Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) system, which was introduced at TED 2015 and in Science Magazine in March, “uses a tunable photochemical process instead of the traditional mechanical approach, which eliminates the shortcomings of conventional layer-by-layer 3D printing technology.”

CLIP uses ultraviolet light and controlled exposure to oxygen to grow objects from liquid resin rather than the additive manufacturing found in other 3D printers, which add materials by layering. CLIP is much faster and produces stronger products than other methods, said Joseph DeSimone, a distinguished professor of chemical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the CEO of Carbon3D.

“3D printing is plagued with failures,” DeSimone told Fortune. However, digital design and Carbon3D’s algorithms can reduce the likelihood of printer errors, he added.

DeSimone said that he and his colleagues were inspired by the T-1000 emerging from a puddle of liquid metal in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He said it could also be used for semiconductor manufacturing.

In fact, the technology came full circle when Los Angeles-based Legacy Effects used CLIP for some of the visual effects for Terminator Genisys.

Where the polymer meets the road

Early customers in the automotive, consumer electronics, and aerospace industries, among others, have been testing the CLIP technology and providing feedback, said Carbon3D. For instance, Ford Motor Co. hopes to eventually use 3D printing for producing custom car parts more quickly than with injection molding.

Google may also be planning to use 3D printing for the self-driving vehicles it is developing. Google‘s Boston Dynamics subsidiary used 3D printing for the Atlas humanoid robot that participated in this year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge.

“This is the first 3D printing tech that really has the potential to break out of the prototyping realm that 3D printing has been relegated to until now,” said Andy Wheeler, general partner at Google Ventures. “For one because of the sheer speed, but perhaps even more importantly due to the range of materials.”

Australia-based Gizmo 3D Printers is working on a similar technology, which it claims could revolutionize manufacturing.

Fast funding

Other investors in Carbon3D’s Series C funding include Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Reinet Fund S.C.A., Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, and Northgate Capital. The Autodesk Spark Investment Fund’s initial $10 million was converted to equity during this round.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Carbon3D has received a total of $141 million since it was founded in 2013, and Forbes said it is valued at $1 billion. The company hopes to release its first commercial product next year.

In addition, former Ford CEO Alan Mulally recently joined the company’s board and is its first independent director.

In other 3D printing and robotics investments, the 3D Printing, Robotics, and Technology Fund was recently founded by the founders of MecklerMedia. Carbon3D’s competitors for the manufacturing industry include 3D Systems and Stratasys, whose stock has fallen since last year.

On the other hand, the market for 3D printers will grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $16.2 billion in 2018, predicted Canalys. The research firm noted that technical improvements and consumer demand could be particularly strong in the U.S. Hewlett-Packard also plans to join the 3D printing market.