Optomec announced three new metal-capable 3D printing devices in a new line of equipment.
Optomec uses an unusual technology to 3D print metal; it’s an aerosol jet of powder that is fused to the deposition point using high-powered lasers. This is quite different from the flat, powder-bed approach used by most other metal 3D printing equipment. Optomec calls their system, “LENS”.
Up to now Optomec equipment has been out of the price range of many users, but one of the key objectives of introducing the new line is to reduce the cost and increase their potential customer base.
The new machines start at USD$250,000, which you might think is “high”, but isn’t really for equipment of this calibre. There are three of them.
The first is the LENS 3D Metal Additive System is a basic LENS-based 3D printer, but has an “open atmosphere”. This means that the machine is capable of 3D printing only metals that are not reactive in the atmosphere.
You see, some powdered metals become explosive if in powder form. Aluminum, for example, is one of these materials - it was for many years used as the fuel in the US Space Shuttle reusable boosters. Yes, definitely explosive!
The second machine is the LENS 3D Metal Hybrid VMC, which also uses an open atmosphere system. The difference is that they’ve integrated CNC milling components from Fryer Machine Systems into the design. This means that you can use both additive and subtractive manufacturing technologies within the same box!
I imagine the typical usage scenario would be to 3D print a rough shape, which would then be smoothed and cut to precise dimensions by the CNC arm. While you cannot produce fine objects in any geometry not accessible by the CNC mechanism, it does save you considerable milling time and dramatically reduces the requirement for raw materials.
The third machine announced is the LENS 3D Metal Hybrid VMC Inert System, which is the same as the hybrid machine, but includes an “Optomec proprietary hermitically-sealed chamber and gas purification system”. This means that it can 3D print reactive materials such as aluminum. Of course, the latter two machines will be more expensive than the entry price of USD$250,000.
With the explosion of interest in 3D metal printing, Optomec delivers these machines at the right time. They are priced and configured in ways that are likely to attract numerous manufacturing buyers that otherwise might not have been able to obtain professional metal 3D printing equipment.
Via BusinessWire (Hat tip to Rachel)