ELLEN KULLMAN Joe Scarnici Getty Images

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Ellen Kullman

President and CEO, Carbon

When Ellen Kullman left chemical company DuPont after over 27 years — including six as CEO — she wasn’t in a rush to jump back into work. But after four years, the promise of digital manufacturing and its potential in the industry took her to Carbon in 2019.

The company, which counts Adidas, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, and Lamborghini as clients, is pioneering 3D printing technology it calls digital light synthesis.

The process is complicated, but essentially Carbon continually pumps resin onto the surface where a product is being formed so that it is continuously building, as opposed to other step-by-step approaches. It enables companies using Carbon to scale to mass production much easier than with the tech used by rivals.

While 3D printing has struggled to break through to widespread adoption, there are many advantages. Because designs can be shared through the cloud, for example, clients can tap on-demand printing from nearly anywhere.

That has come in handy during this pandemic, as Carbon has pivoted to begin making nasal swabs to help with testing, as well as face shields to protect first responders and others on the front line of the outbreak.

“That's the power of digital manufacturing,” Kullman tells Business Insider. “We're just in the very early stages of it, but it's something that can be very relevant in creating a more resilient economy.”

Companies already use 3D printing in some more basic functions, like creating prototypes of new products to test before manufacturing them in large quantities. But the success Carbon has had during the pandemic — it produced 1 million testing swabs by July — is igniting new conversations over the promising future of the technology, Kullman says.

Since 2013 Carbon has raised $680 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion, according to PitchBook.