Desktop Metal is a Massachusetts based company that is looking to change the world of manufacturing as we know it! For quite a while now, people have been speculating on the possibility of bringing 3D metal printing systems into mainstream mass manufacturing processes. But this company headed by the people who came with the idea of additive manufacturing in the first place has actually pulled the feat off for the first time!
Desktop Metal is an engineering startup by MIT professors, CEO Ric Fulop, A. John Hart, Jonah Myerberg, Yet Ming-Chiang, Chris Schuh, Rick Chin, and Emanuel Sachs, the man who has several 3D printing patents dating back to 1989.
The company is now making waves, as they have raised some US$115 million in a Series D round, which takes their total equity investments over US$210 million with big players like Google Equity also chipping in!
Desktop Metal promises reliable metal printing that is 100 times faster, ten times cheaper, uses 20 times fewer materials than existing technologies, and allows for a wider range of alloys. That’s a whole lot of benefits in one machine!
The company is introducing two systems, one is a studio system that will provide rapid and cheap metal prototyping by engineering groups, and the second is a production system for mass manufacturing requirements.
Moreover, it neither employs any hazardous or explosive metal powders nor any dangerous lasers, so you can use them in any place without huge infrastructure for installing ventilation or respirators.
The Studio system works like a regular old FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) ABS plastic printer requiring a very small staff and maintenance. The metal comes in rods, that can include 4140 Chromoly steel, aluminum, copper, bronze, Hiperco 50 magnetic, a range of stainless steels, titanium, and more than 200 other alloys.
In manufacturing systems, the production process reaches speeds like never before. Faster than any machining, casting, and forging techniques, each printer can create upto an astonishing 500 cubic inches of complex parts per hour, which is about 100 times quicker than any laser-based alternative and requires zero tooling.
The Production printers employ a different process known as Single Pass Jetting, explained in the video at the bottom of this article.
Instead of using metal rod cartridges like the Studio printer, the Production printers use powders bonded together during printing and spray-jetted droplets of a binder material. These are regular, low-cost, and easily available MIM powders that cost 20 times less than contemporary options, while creating very precise parts.
These advantages, combined with zero tooling and job setup costs, is bringing 3D printing techniques at par with traditional manufacturing processes for the very first time.
Each printer costs around US$360,000, and the exemplary safety, simplicity, and automation of the design means that 3D printing is on the brink of becoming a regularity in mass markets.