Do You Print in Metal?

by Tyler Reid

It might be the most commonly asked question during my years at GoEngineer, and it was easily my least favorite question to answer. “Do you print in metal?”

It may surprise you to learn, but having to answer “no,” or more commonly “not yet,” isn’t actually why I disliked that particular question. Over time I’ve become adept at fielding the question in ways that kept their interest and channeled their excitement toward tangible options.

It wasn’t saying “no” that killed me, it was admitting that what they wanted didn’t yet exist.

Our users didn’t just want metal printing technology – they wanted metal printing that was as simple, affordable, safe, and easy to use as plastic printing. But it simply wasn’t available.

Desktop MetalAnd then along came Desktop Metal…

If you haven’t heard by now, Desktop Metal is a 3D printing startup based in Burlington, Ma. The company formed in 2015.  They have spent the last two years in quiet development of their hardware and software. And, they managed to draw about $97 million in funding from Google, BMW, Lowe’s, and Stratasys to name just a few of their high-profile investors.

Fortunately for me, I got to visit their headquarters the day before their launch in April and I was blown away by the quality of their team and technology.  Their lead Application Engineer spent the day with me. I asked hundreds of questions trying to poke holes in their technology. I couldn’t!

Studio Printer

Their Studio system is an office-friendly, affordable metal 3DP solution. It consists of 3 machines:

  • printer
  • debinder
  • furnace

Their MIM-based printing method is essentially FDM printing with bound metal powder.  Rods of material (about 30 alloys to start with) are laid down in beads, in layers ranging from 15 to 300 microns tall, and measuring up to 12”x8”x8”.

Debinding and Sintering

The debinding machine washes away the binding agent, prepping the part for sintering. Their furnace is a hybrid system.  It uses microwave-assisted convective heating to reach upwards of 1400C, successfully sintering the parts based on precisely calculated thermal profiles.  The workflow between machines is managed by their cloud-based software.  The software deserves recognition for its intelligence and beautiful UI.

This is all available for around $120,000 by the way. Simply incredible.
GoEngineer is proudly partnering with Desktop Metal to offer their full lineup of machines. They are expected to arrive in Q4 and are available for pre-order today.

Plastic 3D printing is still important and will remain the cornerstone of the Additive Manufacturing industry for the foreseeable future. Stratasys and Desktop Metal have partnered together! Next week I will share my thoughts on how the two might live in harmony, side-by-side in our offices and yours.

In the meantime, please share your comments and questions! If it happens to be “Do you print metal?” I will finally, and emphatically, say “YES!”

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