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No Resistance to Change with Joule Printing

by Pete Basiliere  |  March 29, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

5 years and $18m in funding later, Digital Alloys will be shipping parts made with its “Joule Printing” devices this year. Located in the shadow of Desktop Metal (just 0.3 miles away as the crow flies) and its $438m funding, Digital Alloys seeks to upend the metal 3D printing market. Digital Alloys’ investors include Boeing, Lincoln Electric, khosla ventures and G20 Ventures.

I recently spoke with Duncan McCallum, CEO, about “Joule Printing,” the company’s wire-based metal 3D printing technology that employs its patented resistance heating technology. Joule Printing is derived from the term “joule,” which is defined on Wikipedia as “the energy dissipated as heat when an electric current of one ampere passes through a resistance of one ohm for one second.”

Using thin wire forms of either Ti64 or H13 (with other materials already qualified), Digital Alloys’ device prints parts rapidly and with high density and isotropic strength. As shown in this video, according to the company:

  • Rapid, precise motion and wire feed systems position the tip of the wire in contact with a desired printing (melting) location.
  • Once the wire is positioned, the system pushes current through the wire and part being printed and into the print bed. The current melts the wire tip using joule heating (aka “resistance heating”), the same physics that heat a coil in a toaster.
  • Melting and wire feed continue while the print head moves, laying down beads of metal which are fused together to form fully dense metal parts.

By positioning and melting the wire simultaneously in a single step, Mr. McCallum says that Joule Printing provides precise closed-loop control of melting at the voxel level.

Industries that use hard to machine metals such as titanium, Inconel and tool steel will be interested in Joule Printing’s cost savings potential. This opportunity will be magnified if the parts have what the aerospace industry refers to as a high “buy to fly ratio” (the volume of material that is purchased relative to the volume in the finished piece). “Historic aerospace buy-to-fly ratios can range from 15:1 to 30:1 on the high end, depending on the shape of the part and the manufacturing process,” according to Leo Christodoulou, Chief Technologist for Additive Manufacturing at Boeing.

Comparison of Joule Printing & CNC Machining by Digital Alloys

Source: Digital Alloys


Engineers are rightly a conservative lot, requiring new vendors to “show me” the output and to demonstrate how it performs before investing in a new technology. So, similar to what HP is doing with its Metal Jet Production Service, Digital Alloys will produce parts for its customers and investors in 2019. The company’s first printers could ship in 2020.

Digital Alloy’s blog series, “Guide to Metal Additive Manufacturing,” is worth a look. This week’s post, written with input from Dr. Phil Reeves and others, describes Digital Alloy’s analysis of Energy Consumption in Metal Additive Manufacturing and compares the results to CNC machining. Even if you are an engineer and can argue data points, the claims in favor of metal 3D printing are persuasive.

Then it will be up to Digital Alloys to produce saleable parts and commercialize its 3D printers over the next year or so.

Additional Resources

Category: 3d-printing  additive-manufacturing  advanced-manufacturing  digital-disruption-and-innovation  driving-cost-optimization-across-the-enterprise-it  driving-cost-optimization-across-the-enterprise-supply-chain  new-product-development  

Tags: 3-d-print  3d-print  3d-print-service-bureaus  3d-printer  additive-manufacturing  boeing  digital-alloys  directed-energy-deposition  hp  joule-printing  phil-reeves  rd  

Pete Basiliere
Research Vice President
12 years at Gartner
18 years IT Industry

Mr. Basiliere provides research-based insights on 3D printing and digital printing hardware, software and materials. Mr. Basiliere's Maverick research coined the term Generation AI, people born after 2010 who will not know a world without application intelligence in their lives. Read Full Bio

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