Desktop Metal secures $ 7.9 million 3D printer order from mysterious German automaker


Office metal, a leading supplier of binder jet 3D printing systems, has announced that it has received a $ 7.9 million order from a major German-based automaker.

The joint-stock company is said to use its new binder jet 3D printers for mass production of metal parts of automotive powertrains at high volumes. Desktop Metal already serves several global automotive brands, many of which use the company’s technology to 3D print end-use automotive components in series. This includes Bmw, Renault, Continental, and Ford.

Ric Fulop, Founder and CEO of Desktop Metal, said: “This milestone order is proof of the performance and economy that make our binder jet solutions the world’s most advanced and a testament to our teams who have worked tirelessly to help make the vision of mass production through additive manufacturing a reality.

A factory for manufacturing production systems. Photo via Desktop Metal.

Binder jet 3D printing with Desktop Metal

Based in Burlington, MA, Desktop Metal is undoubtedly the major player in the field of metal binder jet 3D printing. The company benefits from a rapidly growing customer base in industries such as automotive, healthcare and aerospace, and now has more than 1,350 employees worldwide.

Since going public at the end of last year, Desktop Metal has been quick to acquire several other 3D printing companies in an effort to accelerate its growth. The largest of those acquisitions has been competing binder-jet 3D printer maker ExOne, which was acquired for $ 575 million last month. Desktop Metal also recently purchased Belgian coating systems developer Aerosint, hydraulic power systems developer Aidro, and more.

“I am very excited about this combination, which I believe will dramatically accelerate the adoption of production metal additive manufacturing,” said John Hartner, CEO of ExOne. “This combination brings together two of the industry leaders, who combined will solve customer challenges faster and advance the reality of metal additive production by years.”

Desktop Metal’s portfolio of binder jets includes the Shop System and Production system 3D printers, each with their own extended set of hardware capabilities. In fact, only this summer the company became the first to qualify 4140 low alloy steel for use with the binder blast. Desktop Metal has even previously launched sustainable 3D printing technology in wood through its subsidiary Forust.

Renowned architect and sustainability leader William McDonough said: “Forust technology allows us to take something that was previously waste wood and re-materialize it into extremely beautiful and useful things. We honor the cellulose and lignin of trees by re-articulating them into active ingredients for present and future generations.

The 3D printer and the Shop System oven.  Photo via Desktop Metal.
The 3D printer and the Shop System oven. Photo via Desktop Metal.

Metal 3D printing: streamlining automotive production

One of the biggest challenges that automakers face is the length of the R&D phase for new models, which can often span three to five years. During this period, a number of prototypes will inevitably be developed, which means there is a need to perform rapid design iterations with short delivery times. This is where 3D metal printing comes in.

Rather than setting up production lines or outsourcing to produce low volume parts, automakers can use 3D printers as the production system to bring rapid prototyping in-house. In addition to being able to finalize new designs in a much shorter time frame, the use of additive manufacturing lends itself to significant cost savings.

Additionally, automakers can also 3D print manufacturing tools, including jigs and fixtures, to aid in production and assembly. There is even a potential use case in aftermarket parts, especially those that were once cast but are now obsolete. The dynamic and flexible nature of metal 3D printing allows part suppliers to print on demand, completely eliminating their huge inventory of components.

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The image shown shows a manufacturing facility for a production system. Photo via Desktop Metal.