One must look at Xact Metal’s approach if you’re interested in 3D metal printing.
The space, currently dominated by huge players like EOS, GE and 3D Systems, is a place where small startups like Xact Metal must act swiftly and correctly to succeed. So far, that seems to be the case for the Pennsylvania company that started just over a year ago.
They use more-or-less the same 3D printing process as the majors: a flat bed of fine metal powder is impacted by a powerful laser that instantly fuses the particles into solid parts.
Unlike their competitors, who typically use mirrors to redirect laser output at sections of the powder bed, Xact Metal directly fires the laser at the surface by moving it around above the build chamber.
This implies the laser “dot”, or meltpool, where the laser strikes the powder surface, is always of uniform size, making for more accurate 3D metal prints.
The system is less expensive to produce, and thus is less expensive to purchase. Their original XM200 system, with a relatively small 125 x 125 x 125mm build volume, was priced at around USD$120,000, and it’s set to ship early in 2018.
But now we hear they’re working on something new, the “XM300”, set to be launched in fall 2018. This will be a larger volume system, said to be 254 x 330 x 330mm.
What we do know is that the XM300 will apparently integrate up to FOUR separate lasers, instead of a single as found in the XM200.
The four lasers should do a couple of things for us. First, it will increase the build volume, as each laser will be assigned a zone within the build volume, presumably about the size of the XM200’s single laser’s zone, each. You will be able to make bigger parts.
Secondly, with up to four lasers working on a part at a time the print speed can potentially be increased. However, it depends on the size of the object in question, and how much of the part lands within each zone. I suspect a small part that fits within one zone would print at the same speed as the XM200.
All this would suggest a higher price for the XM300, and that appears to be the case. We’re told the price for an XM300 will be in the USD$400-600K range, which sounds about right given the price of the single laser XM200.
More competition for 3D metal printing, that’s a good thing.
Via Xact Metal