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100x Faster, 10x Cheaper: 3D Metal Printing Is About To Go Mainstream (newatlas.com) 119

Big Hairy Ian shares an article from New Atlas: Desktop Metal -- remember the name. This Massachussetts company is preparing to turn manufacturing on its head, with a 3D metal printing system that's so much faster, safer and cheaper than existing systems that it's going to compete with traditional mass manufacturing processes... Plenty of design studios and even home users run desktop printers, but the only affordable printing materials are cheap ABS plastics. And at the other end of the market, while organizations like NASA and Boeing are getting valuable use out of laser-melted metal printing, it's a very slow and expensive process that doesn't seem to scale well.

But a very exciting company out of Massachusetts, headed by some of the guys who came up with the idea of additive manufacture in the first place, believes it's got the technology and the machinery to boost 3D printing into the big time, for real. Desktop Metal is an engineering-driven startup whose founders include several MIT professors, and Emanuel Sachs, who has patents in 3D printing dating back to the dawn of the field in 1989. The company has raised a ton of money in the last few months, including some US$115 million in a recent Series D round that brings total equity investments up over US$210 million. That money has come from big players, too, including Google Ventures... And if Desktop Metal delivers on its promises -- that it can make reliable metal printing up to 100 times faster, with 10 times cheaper initial costs and 20 times cheaper materials costs than existing laser technologies, using a much wider range of alloys -- these machines might be the tipping point for large scale 3D manufacturing.

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100x Faster, 10x Cheaper: 3D Metal Printing Is About To Go Mainstream

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  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @03:43PM (#54905557)

    I see things like this written: The company has raised a ton of money in the last few months, including some US$115 million in a recent Series D round that brings total equity investments up over US$210 million.

    • by cunina ( 986893 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @03:49PM (#54905575)
      Also when an article repeatedly claims "this isn't hype" yet is written in breathless promotional style.
      • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Sunday July 30, 2017 @11:55AM (#54909199)

        As an engineer, I have deep suspicions when 'better' RP machine press articles don't have a single reference to accuracy or tolerances. That usually means they are still trying to improve the technology and don't want to get caught in a lie.

        • If this works as it looks to the problems will be shrinkage during fusing, material differences and so the need to calibrate for given material, and of course wear and tear.

          This is all solvable. FDM machines do this already. If you need truly fine tolerances, some of your parts may need precise machining, and still that's likely faster and cheaper than trying to machine or cast something intricate. For prototyping, this promising. When costs dive down, it makes for useful one-off parts, and the collectible

    • What's the issue? They give actual figures which would land them in hot water if they are false.
      • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @04:21PM (#54905719)

        You should be old enough to have seen so many companies that get huge up-front investments, have snazzy demos and then fail to perform up to the hype.

        • Right. Because promises of a cost advantages of a couple factors over existing products in a rapidly advancing field are so sexy and an easy way to defraud investors. This isn't zero point energy for fuckssake.
          • by Nutria ( 679911 )

            promises of a cost advantages of a couple factors over existing products in a rapidly advancing field are so sexy and an easy way to defraud investors.

            Well, they are "sexy" in Silly Valley.

    • No shit. I'm being reminded of the Magic Leap hype.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Odd, I don't get skeptical unless they're asking ME to invest. It doesn't cost me anything to think where this might go, and I find the process enjoyable.

      Now if I were going to make an action based on this, then that would be a different matter. But I've gotten mildly enthusiastic about loads of things dating back to the Astounding Science Fiction "Dean Drive" article. It's been enjoyable, and cheaper than most entertainment.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      It's Trumpisms all over.

      "remember the name".
      "so much faster".
      "a very exciting company".
      "boost [...] into the big time, for real".

      Is this the new marketing? Written for people you have to spell things out for?

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Except that I remember these kinds of claims being made 35 years ago in Silicon Valley.

  • by Reaperducer ( 871695 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @03:49PM (#54905583)

    Translated: "Step right up, folks, and buy some stock! You want to be a part of this miracle company that's going to change everything forever! We're buzzword compliant and going to revolutionize the world, just like every other company that's come before us! How are we different? We managed to get through the outsourced overseas /. BS filter with our astroturf advertisement! So, step right up and have a swig of tonic!"

    • Right. Go look at their website and tell me this is a fake company. I don't see anywhere where they are soliciting investors. BTW Massachusetts is not a state I would want to be and get charged with fraud....
      I realize this was on a stupid tech zine but even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while.
      • "And if Desktop Metal delivers on its promises .... these machines might be the tipping point for large scale 3D manufacturing."

        Say no more..

        • There are production parts manufactured on 3d lathes, you can see it on youtube if you like. How is this different?
          • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @06:39PM (#54906265)

            There are production parts manufactured on 3d lathes, you can see it on youtube if you like. How is this different?

            A milling or lathing machine starts with a block of stuff and carves away anything that isn't needed, producing a part and a bunch of shavings (called "scurf"). This system is additive; it starts with nothing and adds stuff until you've got a part.

            • My point was that this would fill a similar niche for small medium volume parts with a similar cost model. Of course it's a different method.
            • Swarf

            • You're right...except it's called "swarf".
              Takes time and effort to remove materiels - rather than adding - and you have other issues such as work-hardening & stressing the piece.
              Plus swarf is a bitch - sharp and dangerous and hard to recycle unless you're always working the same alloy on the machine.

          • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @09:53PM (#54906881)
            There's shapes you can't make on a lathe or mill since you've got to hold onto something and can't get to the inside.
            Also this is an additive process which can be nice with expensive material. Instead of throwing away most of a block of material you build it up out of powder.
            Another thing is that this might actually be cheaper than machining for some very hard to machine materials.

            I don't see this as being useful for everything but instead really useful in a few situations.
            If this takes off as a hobby early adopters should not that you do not want the powder in your lungs and do not want the fumes from the burning organic additives there either - face masks and some sort of fume extraction should be used. It doesn't need to be expensive, take a look at what some hobby woodworkers do for dust extraction and that's going to get enough air moving to take care of a lot of fumes as well.
            • early adopters should note that you do not want the powder in your lungs.
              I also should mention there's a bit of a fire hazard with metal powder but it's not that hard to work around. The main thing is don't get it or the fumes from that burning plastic inside you.
  • Not that tough. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2017 @03:51PM (#54905591)

    They use regular, low-cost, easily available MIM powders.

    This press release is overstating the toughness of the things this can produce. You won't be making transmission parts or turbofan blades that will last very long if at all.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      That sounds plausible. Cold welds usually aren't very strong. But perhaps you could heat it afterwards? You wouldn't want to get it up to the point where it started deforming, but holding it just below that for a day or so might make it a lot stronger.

      • by K10W ( 1705114 )

        That sounds plausible. Cold welds usually aren't very strong. But perhaps you could heat it afterwards? You wouldn't want to get it up to the point where it started deforming, but holding it just below that for a day or so might make it a lot stronger.

        kind of defeats the point as that would be even more specialist gear to get those temps and out of the scope of most people interested in operating these. I wish there would be easy 3d printing for usable types of metal but seems buying bar stock and a cnc machine is still the best way for most folks to get that function. I don't have cnc rig due to cost and size so resort to hand working everything. In fact from that PoV zamak casting gear is probably easier and cheaper to use than what 3d printing everyda

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          I'm speculating well out of my area of knowledge, but...

          You're thinking of heating it considerably hotter than I was thinking of. I wasn't thinking of up to annealing temperature, but a bit below that. I wasn't so much thinking of growing the grain size as allowing impurities to dissipate (I think that's how it works). Vacuum welds can be pretty strong if you have a good vacuum and smooth surfaces, but get a little air or other impurity in there and they become a lot weaker. But clearly what I'm proposi

          • by K10W ( 1705114 )

            I'm speculating well out of my area of knowledge, but...

            You're thinking of heating it considerably hotter than I was thinking of. I wasn't thinking of up to annealing temperature, but a bit below that. I wasn't so much thinking of growing the grain size as allowing impurities to dissipate (I think that's how it works). Vacuum welds can be pretty strong if you have a good vacuum and smooth surfaces, but get a little air or other impurity in there and they become a lot weaker. But clearly what I'm proposing would necessarily be for very small pieces. And you'd probably need to run the oven in a good vacuum. As you said, probably not practical.

            Actually I explained what I meant poorly as usual, apologies. I was thinking of heattreat per se not just removing the remaining binder or optimising the machine for speed like this and what happens if you hold it at sinter temp without cycling. You're right a soak would help with some things if done properly but going that route eliminates what they seem to be shooting for here and I thought you meant lengthening the sinter step which I see you didn't now (ie. holding it too hot for longer then workpiece =

          • by K10W ( 1705114 )

            I'm speculating well out of my area of knowledge, but...

            You're thinking of heating it considerably hotter than I was thinking of. I wasn't thinking of up to annealing temperature, but a bit below that. I wasn't so much thinking of growing the grain size as allowing impurities to dissipate (I think that's how it works). Vacuum welds can be pretty strong if you have a good vacuum and smooth surfaces, but get a little air or other impurity in there and they become a lot weaker. But clearly what I'm proposing would necessarily be for very small pieces. And you'd probably need to run the oven in a good vacuum. As you said, probably not practical.

            the second bit I also assumed knowledge people prob have no interest in too. Clarification = you can get materials like steels where the stock is made from highly compressed then sintered powders so you get the benefit of small particle size or close to shape stock etc but there is no air voids (due to the pressing step) and impurity wise as you prob know from previous comments it is done in vacuum or under suitable atmosphere (inert or favourable gas increased, unfavourable ones removed). You can control t

        • It is not going to take long for the hobbyist community to leverage this and start showing how to build small furnaces with both thermal and microwave heating. Half-wave traps are simple, and small magnetos are ubiquitous. Kits will show up soon (18-24 months?) enough.

  • Maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @03:56PM (#54905617)

    At first I was skeptical of the claim but after reading the article it appears they're actually producing a system. The inclusion of Emanuel Sachs lends credibility also. Shouldn't be a long wait, part of the system ships in a few months the second part next year.

    • ... part of the system ships in a few months the second part next year, of the third century, of the next Mayan calendar, when the last person to have range anxiety over electric cars exists, and as the ten planets align (there'll be a few conferences between now and then and we'll even get down to six planets at one point).

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        I understand skepticism, I'm mostly a skeptic myself. Still, if it's BS they usually put the date out a while. If they have nothing to show by the end of the year, that will be that. Most ppl don't run the scam that way.

    • Don't bother talking sense to the negative do-nothing nancies on /. Not worth your time.
  • Can it make a cup of Earl Grey?
  • an equivalent laser system will run you more than US$1 million

    so... $100K?

    The entire integrated system and associated software retails for US$120,000

    Oh, marketing mathematics, eh?

    Call me when you get it down to $10K.

    • And call me when they get it down to $1K.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        And call me when they get it down to $1K.

        And call me when I can't get the product I want cheaper off one of the owners on eBay. Seriously, this reminds me of someone trying to make the business case that I should buy a gym at home. I don't have the space and it would be idle 99.9% of the time. Seriously, some of these machines I spend like 5 minutes exercising (1m series-1m break-1m series-1m break-1m series-done) that I might do once a week. I'd rather just pay for a gym membership. Even if I have a custom design job unless I need it very often a

  • Office freindly sintering furnace? I don't think our ES&H would approve it.
  • by oic0 ( 1864384 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @04:32PM (#54905767)
    Almost no one prints ABS anymore. Its only good property is heat tolerance. PLA is the most popular for things where strength isn't needed. Outside of that there us nylon, petg, polycarbonate, etc....
    • Almost no one prints ABS anymore. Its only good property is heat tolerance. PLA is the most popular for things where strength isn't needed.

      We don't? ABS is stronger than PLA, albeit not as stiff. It also can be smoothed and glued with acetone which is very handy. You can't solvent weld most of the ones you've listed. ABS has got a pretty bad rep for being "difficult", but I really can't tell why. I've never had much trouble on a variety of printers.

  • Now this incredible advancement will be joined with the many upcoming improvements in battery technology and the no less fabulous breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence and create a car that prints itself when you need it, and then takes a while to decide that you really don't need to go where you wanted to go.

  • by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @04:42PM (#54905817) Homepage Journal

    This is a normal 3d printer, with filament that is heavily laden with metal, so they probably use a nozzle that is tougher (like carbide or sapphire).... the magic is the metal gets sintered after a bath to remove most of the plastic. Enterprising folks could probably use a different extruder on their existing 3d printers, and get similar results.

    I have no problem believing this thing works, as there is nothing really revolutionary happening.

    • Only 100x faster? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Saturday July 29, 2017 @05:44PM (#54906057) Homepage

      This Australian startup [spee3d.com] has a new additive metal process that is 1000x faster, and 100x cheaper!

      Seriously - and it's working today, not still in development. No filament, no lasers - they have a six-axis arm holding the part over a nozzle that blasts it with high-speed metal particles that stick to the part. Sounds crude, and it looks crude, but a quick bake to sinter it and a run through the CnC mill to finish it, and the completed result is as good as any slow laser-sintered part (which will also require milling).

      They figured that since existing additive metal processes still require a final milling step to smooth out the surfaces, it takes just as much time to mill off a few hundred microns as a couple dozen, so you might as well go quick & dirty for the additive stage - same result, and much faster overall.

      • by abies ( 607076 )

        Do you have a link to specific measurements? It looks to me that errors/resolution is more in couple millimeters rather than 50-100 microns.

        If we go one order of magnitude higher, then we can just get 10x10x10 metal solid cube and use cutter/miller to cut out the shape we need and skip 3d printing part.

      • Yeah? Well my company 3D printed a usable pistol! Nyah!

    • It begs the question of if the polymer can be extruded through a small nozzle, why not stamp for bulk manufacturing? Thus, the sintering patents are worth more indeed.
  • by Salgak1 ( 20136 ) <salgakNO@SPAMspeakeasy.net> on Saturday July 29, 2017 @05:16PM (#54905959) Homepage

    . . . when some legislator realizes this could be used to print "ghost guns". And then demands limits on what can be printed on them. ..

    • Within a reasonable time, I predict that we will be able to print "ghost" anything, at least in macro scales. The people panicking will be the mass-producers of cheap bullshit items, as local small-office fabs (who don't summarily have to pay shipping costs for over-packaged end-user items) and open-source designs will eat their lunch.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      We just have to hope no attention seekers like the "3D printed plastic gun" idiots make some noise about this stuff.
      Seriously guys, "zip guns" have been around for a long time so there's no need to worry. also "real" hobby guns that can take real usage instead of single shot are a thing. A guy I know even made a semi-replica musket that is breech loading with one inch cartridges - with hand tools! It has trouble hitting a barn, even when he cuts down on the powder charge in the cartidges, but it's real
  • IF I gain 40 pounds of muscle and win the lottery tomorrow, I MIGHT have a shot at banging Megan Fox, too.

  • First: blatant advertisement which makes me a sad panda.

    Second: Their technology is nothing new or revolutionary and not fit for actually useful parts either.
    The whole things is, in the end, still just pressure less sintering with less binding material than other 3D printers.
    Problem: Sintered parts are not very robust. They might make paperweights with that technique but never, lets say, tubine engine blades.

    It is quite unfortunate as a suitable technology already exists but is still rather obscure: LENS (l

  • So "it" was already cheap, and now it's ten times cheaper? What does that even mean? How about "one tenth the cost of CNC milling the part" or "one tenth the cost of lost wax casting" or ... something that actually means something?
  • TFS Summarized: It's a cool company!! Ppl are investing! If it works, it's gonna be big! Real big, I tell ya.

    Sadly, the "if" part is almost a direct quote.

    Seriously, editors, would it have killed you translate/shrink this to: Startup promises metal printing 100X faster for 1/10 the printer price and 1/20th the materials price ?

  • I worked at a company that used this sintering process. We molded the pre-sintered parts, while this company is 3D printing them. A few issues to overcome:

    1. Shrinkage. Sure, you can say that the software will take care of this, but here is LOTS of trial and error to getting the original shape just right to allow for the shrinkage

    2. Droop. When sintering (near melting point), the parts will tend to drop because, well, they are near melting. We mostly dealt with smaller parts due to this issue, but

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