Liz Nickels spoke to Desktop Metal, a US-based company that uses MIM-based 3D printing to make the technology more accessible to all.

While metal additive manufacturing (AM) has sought to differentiate itself from the consumer market that still plays a big role in plastic 3D printing, one recent startup company has bucked the trend, offering what it says is the first office-friendly metal 3D printer for making prototypes. Desktop Metal, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA, was inaugurated in 2015 to address how to make metal 3D printing accessible for engineering teams. Since its inception, the company has raised a total investment of US$277 million and attracted major investors, including Ford, GV (formerly Google Ventures), BMW Group, GE, Lowe’s, NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Lux Capital, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing leader Stratasys. It has over 138 patents filed and a team of more than 200 employees. Members of the founding team include Jonah Myerberg, chief technology officer and a leader in materials engineering, Ely Sachs, MIT professor and early pioneer of 3D printing, the inventor of binder jet printing, Yet-Ming Chiang, MIT professor and a materials scientist, Christopher Schuh, chairman of the MIT department of materials science and engineering and one of the world’s leading metallurgists, A John Hart, MIT professor and expert in manufacturing and machine design, and Rick Chin, VP of software, who was one of the early team members of SolidWorks and previously founder of Xpress 3D (acquired by Stratasys).

In 2017, the company launched two systems covering the full product lifecycle from prototyping to mass production, entitled the Studio System™ for prototyping, and the Production System™ for mass production. US patents 9815118 and 9833839 cover the separable support layer technology used in the Studio System and Production System and the company owns several more pending patent applications covering other aspects of this technology.

‘The technological innovation in these patents enables users, for the first time, to print large metal parts with complex geometries that can be easily removed from their support structures by hand or to print metal objects with separable interlocking structures,’ said Jonah Myerberg, CTO and co-founder of Desktop. ‘Traditional laser powder bed methods for metal AM are restricted to single materials and are both difficult and costly to implement. Desktop Metal has designed new approaches for metal AM that now allow multiple materials to be used during printing. This makes it possible to print support structures that do not bond to parts and consolidate during sintering with the part and, as a result, high dimensional accuracy is achieved, and support structures are easily removed by hand. We believe the benefit of this technology covered by the patents will enable substantially increased adoption of metal AM.’

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