There are various metal additive manufacturing methods available today:
METAL POWDER BED FUSION METAL 3D PRINTERS (SLS, SLM, DMP)
BINDER JETTING METAL 3D PRINTERS
DIRECT ENERGY DEPOSITION METAL 3D PRINTERS (DED)
MATERIAL JETTING METAL 3D PRINTERS
BINDER JETTING METAL 3D PRINTERS
METAL FILAMENT EXTRUSION (FFF, FDM)
At the moment, the most commonly used metal additive manufacturing technology is powder 3D printing. Simply put, the 3D printer creates objects out of a bed of powdered metal thanks to a powerful laser.
STATUS ON SEPTEMBER 2019
Metal 3D printing has been one of the most outstanding developments in the AM industry in recent years. In 2018, Wohlers Report reported that 80% more metal 3D printing solutions had been sold compared to the previous year – today, this figure continues to grow. An important number of new market players are joining the market, developing new 3D printers and new technologies. In recent years, an astonishing 40 manufacturers of metal 3D printers have emerged. Many of these manufacturers have introduced new technologies to deal with this material such as HP’s Multi Jet Fusion or XJet’s Inkjet technology, for example.
Today we present to the main manufacturers of metal 3D printers, we have classified them given the additive manufacturing technology: Powder Bed Fusion, Directed Energy Deposition, Material Extrusion or Binder Jetting.
Metal 3D Printer Manufacturers: Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)
3D Systems, was part of the first companies to enter the 3D printing market, introducing the first technology stereolithography (SLA) in the 80s. Today it generates more than $600 million in revenue per yea thanks to the multitude of 3D printers it has developed. In 2013, it purchased the French printing brand Phenix Systems to expand into the metal segment. Its metal 3D printers use technologies called Direct Metal Printing (DMP) to build parts. They use a high-precision laser that solidifies metal powder placed on a bed. Their range of 3D printers includes the ProX DMP 300, the ProX DMP 200, the DMP Factory 350, and 3D printers in the dental sector such as the DMP Dental 100.
Founded in 2016 as a joint venture between Michelin and Fives, AddUp developed its first 3D metal printer called FormUp 350. This 3D metal printer is based on Laser Beam Melting (LBM) and can produce metal parts up to 350 x 350 x 350mm. This brand is Michelin’s official entry into the additive manufacturing industry after using 3D metal printers for its products for many years. The FormUp 350 can manufacture pieces from stainless steel, nickel, titanium alloys and aluminium alloys.
Arcam is a company that acquired by GE Additive in 2017, the manufacturing giant currently owns more than 90% of Arcam’s shares and has become the industry’s largest investor into the company. Since its founding in 1997, the Swedish startup has pioneered 3D printing through Electron Beam Melting (EBM) technologies, and is the only manufacturer of 3D printers that uses this technology. Arcam currently has four metal 3D printers on the market, including the Arcam A2X which has a building volume of 200 x 200 x 380 mm and weighs 1.7 kg. This large industrial 3D printer was developed for the aerospace industry, creating metal parts with great strength.
Concept Laser is a German company founded in 2000 by Frank Herzog. In 2016, GE Additive also acquired 75% of the shares of Concept Laser, becoming the leading shareholder of the company. Its metal 3D printers use the brand’s patented LaserCUSING® technology, which is also based on laser sintering of metals. They currently have 6 3D printers on the market, including the metal X Line 2000R, which according to the company is the largest metal fusion machine in the world. The printer has a construction volume of 800 x 400 x 500 mm and uses a dual laser system.
DMG Mori is a German company joint to a Japanese company that gave rise to DMG Mori Seiki, which is also recognized in Asia. In addition to its operations in the milling and grinding industries, DMG Mori has launched four 3D metal printers. The manufacturer has two printers that use Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology: the Lasertec 12 and the Lasertec 30. In addition, DMG Mori also sells three other 3D printers that use a nozzle to project metal powder and a laser to melt it, such as its Lasertec 65 and Lasertec 4300 models.
EOS is an additive manufacturing company of German origin, founded as Electro Optical Systems by Dr. Hans J. Langer and Dr. Hans Steinbichler in 1989. EOS operates in the polymer 3D printing market with a range of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers, and is also found in the metal AM industry. The company has developed a range of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) 3D printers. It currently has six different models, these include the EOS M 300-4 und EOS M 400 and EOS M100 models.
Renishaw is a UK additive manufacturing company based in Gloucestershire, in the UK. The company specialises in the creation of industrial 3D printers that create lightweight, customised metal models quickly using powder bed fusion technology. Since entering the metal 3D printing market, Renishaw has launched 4 metal printers: RenAM 500M, RenAM 500Q, AM250 and AM400. These four models offer a 3D printing solution according to different needs, have different speeds and different construction sizes.
Sisma is an Italian 3D printing company operating in different industries since the 1960s, not that long ago it decided to join additive manufacturing. Since their beginnings into the 3D industry they have already launched five metal 3D printers based on Laser Metal Fusion (LMF) technologies. They introduced their so-called MYSINT series which uses the following technology. Sisma’s 3D printers have been designed to meet the requirements of 4 specific industries: dental, jewelry, medical and industrial production in general.
SLM Solutions is a German manufacturer of 3D printers that emerged in 2015, and has since been recognized in the sector of metal 3D printing as one of the leaders in sales. They currently have 5 metal 3D printers on the market: SLM 500, SLM 280 2.0, SLM 2080 Production Series, SLM 800 and SLM 125. These 3D printers are based on DMLS technology, patented as SLM Selective Laser Melting (SLM). SLM Solutions’ 3D printers feature multiple laser options, bi-directional coating and closed-loop powder handling to create complex metal parts by solidifying the metal powder layer by layer.
Trumpf is another German manufacturer, specialized in the development of machine tools. Since, the company launched on the 3D printing market and introduced 3D printers based on two different technologies in addition to its laser metal coating technology. First, they launched three printers with Laser Metal Fusion (LMF) technology (a process similar to DMLS), including the TruPrint 3000 model. In addition, they have launched two printers based on Laser Metal Deposition technologies, similar to what we now know as melt deposition. In this category is the TruLaser Cell 3000.
Since 2014, Aconity3D has been selling modular systems for laser powder bed-based 3D printing of metals. AconityONE, AconityMIDI and AconityMINI are basic system types and can be freely configured via add-on modules, from dual to quattro laser systems via various laser outputs and heating systems to sensor-supported process monitoring. They can therefore be tailored to special application requirements and individual budgets. In terms of ease-of-use, Aconity3D is currently developing the 3DMetalWIRE, a wire-based 3D laser printing system without complex powder handling, and the design of the AconityMICRO, a compact LBM production system.
Based in Japan, the metal 3D printer manufacturer currently employs 300 people worldwide since its creation in 1935. It markets hybrid 3D printers that combine CNC milling and subtractive manufacturing processes with additive manufacturing such as powder bed fusion. The company sells two models, the LUMEX Avance-25 and the LUMEX Avance-60.
Velo3D is an American manufacturer founded by Benny Buller who wanted to help companies adopt metal technologies by developing the 3D Flow software™. This allows the acceleration of design in 3D printing and enables to collaborate with engineers for the design and preparation of parts for 3D printing. To complete its developments, in 2018 the company created its 3D printer Sapphire™ System, equipped with the patented Intelligent Fusion technology™, based on a powder bed. The machine is capable of printing complex parts using few supports, unlike competing solutions.
The Australian manufacturer, which came on the market in 2017, offers one of the most affordable metal printers in the industry at around $65,000. Today, it offers two machines in its range, the S-Titanium Pro and the RMP-1 production system. Their machines are based on Multi-layer Concurrent Printing technology, a technique between Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) and Direct Energy Deposition (DED). According to the manufacturer, the machines are 55 times faster than any other printer based on a powder bed. The post-processing work is not very extensive and the user can easily obtain parts with smooth finishes.
Metal 3D Printer Manufacturers: Directed Energy Deposition (DED)
Optomec is an American manufacturer of metal 3D printers which, since its creation, has registered more than 35 patents and employed about 60 employees. Optomec is known for its LENS metal 3D printing technology, based on the principle of directed energy deposition technology. This company manufactured its first LENS 3D printer in 1998. It currently has 7 metal 3D printing solutions including the LENS 450 and LENS 850-R.
Sciaky is the oldest company on our list since it was founded in 1939 and at the time supplied welding systems for American aircraft during the Second World War. More recently, Sciaky has developed its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBEAM) technology. Instead of using metal powder as a source material, it uses metal rods welded via an electron beam. It now has 5 metal 3D printer models, including the EBAM 300 and EBAM 150.
BeAM is a French manufacturer based in Strasbourg. With 15 years of R&D experience, BeAM has developed 3 metal 3D printers based on a technology called CLAD for Direct Additive Laser Construction, developed by Irepa Laser. This process offers the possibility of repairing damaged elements since it is possible to build directly on the part. Its range includes the Modulo 250, Modulo 400 and Magic 800.
InssTek is a South Korean manufacturer of metal 3D printers created in 2001, has developed its own technology, Direct Metal Tooling (DMT) which is similar to the directed energy deposition. The manufacturer has launched three models, the MX-400, which corresponds to its entry-level model, the MX-600 and their largest model, the MX-1000.
Metal 3D Printers: Material Extrusion
Desktop Metal is an American company that wants to reduce the cost and speed of additive metal manufacturing. It recently unveiled its two printers, the Studio System available from $120K and the Production System which costs $420K. The manufacturer has already received a total investment of $200M, including from Google, BMW and GE. It has developed its own technology called “single pass jetting” which is very similar to metal injection moulding.
Markforged was founded in 2013 by Greg Mark and first focused on 3D printing from carbon fibers. Since then, the company has started manufacturing metal additive manufacturing systems with Metal X. What distinguishes it from other machines is its relatively low cost since it is available from $100,000. Its Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM) technology should make it easier to create cheaper parts with a printing volume of 250 x 220 x 200 mm. Like Desktop Metal, its process is based on the MIM (Metal Injection Molding) technology already widely used in the industry.
Iro3D is an American manufacturer that came into the industry in 2018 by unveiling its metal 3D printer Iro3D. The machine looks like an FFF 3D printer, but is capable of printing metals thanks to its “Selective Powder Deposition” technology, based on extrusion technologies. Through its nozzle, the printer creates a sand crucible in which the metal powder is located. Once the printing process is complete, the part in the crucible must be sintered at more than 1180°C for about 3 hours.
Airwolf is a company specialized in the development of 3D desktop printers with FDM. In 2017, the company unveiled Evo Additive Manufacturing Center, an office machine capable of printing with several materials such as ABS, PLA, special filaments but also metal. Another company specialized in FDM technology has also launched into metal: Colido with its 3D printer AMSS Metal. This machine works by extrusion and with a binder.
Metal 3D Printers: Other Technologies
HP Metal Jet
Almost a year ago, the American giant HP announced the launch of its first metal solution, the HP Metal Jet. Since its arrival on the market, HP has become one of the leading manufacturers of industrial 3D printers and therefore could not miss the metal. The new metal machine is based on the projection of a binder and a metal powder, solidified layer by layer by a heat source. The binder is removed directly from the 3D printer, while the sintering step must be performed in a suitable furnace.
Bought by a coal mining company, Höganäs, a few years ago, Digital Metal is a growing company that has produced more than 200,000 metal objects since its creation. Its metal 3D printer, the DM P2500, is based on Binder Jetting technology, and offers a printing volume of 203 x 180 x 69 mm, on top of not requiring any printing media. It promises fast, flexible and economical production.
ExOne is a publicly traded German manufacturing company that specialises in industrial 3D printing machines. The German company’s 3D printers are commonly used in sectors such as automotive, aerospace, heavy equipment, and energy sectors. ExOne 3D printers use Binder Jetting technology with industrial materials to provide solutions at a lower operating cost. Currently, ExOne markets four printers: Innovative, ExOne 25 Pro, ExOne M-Flex, and ExOne M-Print.
XJet is our only Israeli manufacturer, founded by Hanan Gothait. The company is best known for its innovative NanoParticle Jetting technology that could revolutionize metal and ceramic manufacturing. Its 3D printers allow you to create a metal object using a material composed of fine metal droplets suspended in a liquid ink. The Israeli manufacturer currently produces two printers, the X Carmel 700 and the X Carmel 1400. The video below shows the patented technology:
Vader Systems is an American manufacturer specialized in 3D metal printing, founded by Scott Vader and his son Zachary Vader. The company was recently acquired for $8 million by the giant Xerox, renowned for its 2D printers. Their 3D metal printer is based on their patented technology, MagnetoJet, which manipulates a liquid metal by magnetism. The machine propels droplets of liquefied metal at 1200°C – a process that is reminiscent of the material jet process. We don’t know yet if the 3D metal printer will keep the same name, namely Vader Systems MK1 or if Xerox will change it.
The French Pollen AM recently unveiled two new 3D printers, a ceramic and a metal. The latter is also based on the indirect metal manufacturing process MIM (for Metal Injection Molding) and uses metal granules – 316L stainless steel, titanium and 17-4 stainless steel. Their 3D metal printer, the PAM Series M, would be available from €68,900, one of the lowest prices on the market.
Exxadon is the additive manufacturing subsidiary of the Swiss nanotechnology company Cytosurge. It has developed its 3D metal printer, the FluidFM, which can print metal with a resolution as fine as 1 µm, offering a very high level of detail. It would also have a printing volume of 200 x 200 x 200 x 200 mm and was designed mainly for research purposes.
ADMATEC is a Dutch company founded in November 2013 after the success of a research project in 2012. It has developed its 3D metal printer, the AdMetalFlex 130, which is based on Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology. The machine mixes a photosensitive resin and a metallic powder, and uses a laser to fuse them in the same way as its 3D ceramic printer.
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