Clients have asked for years whether Stratasys would offer metal 3D printing. The answer is near, but what does it mean?
Investors have also been clamoring for Stratasys to introduce metal 3D printing for years. Indeed, while founder Scott Crump invented material extrusion technology, it was Desktop Metal and Mark Forged (a 2015 Gartner Cool Vendor) who came to market with extrusion-based metal 3D printing first.
Which is not what Stratasys is doing.
They may have developed a variation on Metal Injection Molding (MIM). Or maybe not.
Stratasys announced today that they will be bringing a metal 3D printer employing jetting technology to market. However, the company is “not discussing its timeline or expectations around commercialization and we do not expect revenue associated with this new platform to be recognized in 2018.”
So, despite years of development work, and not unlike the time that passed between HP’s announcement of its 3D printing technology and MultiJet Fusion’s availability, at least another year will pass before the first devices are commercially available.
From the company’s press release: “The innovative Stratasys platform has been developed internally over the past several years, incorporating the Company’s proprietary jetting technology…With this new technology, Stratasys believes it will offer customers a new ability to short-run manufacture metal parts made with commonly used powder metallurgy, starting with aluminum, at an economically competitive cost-per-part and throughput, with easy to implement post-processing and high part quality.”
SSYS refused to discuss the tech in detail on its earnings call but did provide this reveal:
Considering what CEO Ilan Levin indicated on the call, I think it is reasonable to believe Stratasys will be using a derivative of the MIM technology that is commonly used in conventional manufacturing today.
Yet, by employing a jetting technology (which the company has been developing and selling for years, going back to the days when Objet was an independent company), the new device will be more similar to the Xjet offering (which itself was founded by Hanan Gothait, a co-founder of Objet). Xjet’s NanoParticle Jetting technology prints separate nanoparticle “inks” or fluids for the build and support materials, while requiring the 3D printed parts to be sintered afterward.
Indeed, CEO Levin said “On the post-processing side, I think, what we’re offering in the system are more a standard, familiar, post-processing techniques in manufacturing that hopefully will be well received by the market and well understood by the market, hopefully reducing adoption cycles and perhaps the qualification processes that we see in other AM technologies.”
Stratasys’ press release noted the “The platform was designed from inception to provide the values of additive manufacturing for short-run production, while overcoming material limitations of currently available metal-based additive manufacturing systems.” While pricing was not disclosed, given its target market the device will likely cost substantially less than metal powder bed fusion 3D printers from competitors such as 3D Systems, Additive Industries, Arcam, Aspect, Concept Laser, EOS, Farsoon, HP, Renishaw and SLM Solutions.
So, what are the key takeaways from Stratasys’ announcement?
• Do not postpone a planned, near term investment in metal 3D printing based on the announcement alone — too much can happen between now and when the new Stratasys platform is commercially available in large numbers
• Keep your eyes open to further metal 3D printing technology developments — from both existing and new market entrants, worldwide
• Monitor jetting technology developments — it already used 2D printing, 3D printing, bioprinting and printed electronics
I listened live to today’s earnings call. The complete text of the Stratasys call, from which these quotes were taken, is available on Seeking Alpha. The complete slide deck from which I copied the slide shown above is available on Stratasys’ Investor Relations website.
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Category: 3d-printing additive-manufacturing advanced-manufacturing supply-chain
Tags: 3-d-print 3d-print 3d-printer 3d-systems additive-manufacturing arcam bioprinting concept-laser cool-vendor hp inkjet markforged material-extrusion material-jetting metal-injection-molding mim multi-jet-fusion objet printed-electronics renishaw slm-solutions stratasys xjet
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