With the huge increase of interest in metal 3D printing, you’d wonder why Stratasys, perhaps the largest 3D printing company in the world, doesn’t yet offer metal 3D printers.
Sure, they’ve been quite busy building up their PolyJet technology, most recently with the incredible new J750 that’s capable of printing objects in multiple materials AND multiple colors.
But it can’t print in metal.
And no other product in the company’s arsenal can do so.
This is a disadvantage to the company, clearly, as more manufacturers are discovering the potential provided by 3D printed metal components that could otherwise not be produced.
One of their major competitors, 3D Systems, acquired a 3D metal printing company, Phenix Systems, a few years ago and has incorporated their metal 3D printing technologies into their product line. In fact, 3D Systems features this tech prominently, as it’s a competitive advantage for them, as least as far as competing with Stratasys goes.
But that could change.
This week a 3D metal printing startup, “Desktop Metal”, received a massive USD$33.76M in additional investment. That’s in addition to an earlier round of USD$14M.
But wait, who is “Desktop Metal”? They’re a small 3D metal printing startup based in Lexington, MA, suspiciously close to MIT, where much research on 3D printing technologies has taken place. Their now-20+ person team includes a number of MIT researchers, engineers and scientists. One of their co-founders, Chris Schuh, has a group at MIT that does this:
Our group uses experiments, analytical theory, and computer simulations to explore the processing-structure-property relationships in structural metals and materials, with particular emphasis on the role of structural disorder and its effect on mechanical properties. Our research covers many length scales, from long-range disorder in grain boundary networks, to the nanoscale disorder in amorphous and nanocrystalline alloys.
Sounds quite complementary to a 3D metal printing development project, doesn’t it? The rest of their team seems similarly suited to the work of developing powerful metal 3D printing capabilities.
So what does Stratasys have to with this? Well, it turns out that Stratasys was one of the investors in a previous investment round that raised Desktop Metal USD$14M.
So Stratasys does not have a 3D metal printer on their product shelf. But they do own a company that will.
It’s possible that they may get further involved with Desktop Metal, perhaps as a licensee of their technology or reseller of their products. Perhaps Stratasys would like to acquire them, as 3D Systems did with Phenix Systems in 2013? We won’t know until Desktop Metal produces further information about their plans, which at the moment remain behind closed doors.