You’d think that the best 3D metal printing technique is a settled issue, but it is not by any means “over”.
3D metal printing has been going on for quite some time, but it’s only recently that it has sprung to prominence as a result of several key industries discovering how it can be used to create unique parts that cannot be made in other ways. These innovative parts can provide the manufacturer with additional function for their products, as well as reducing time and cost to produce them.
This approach is so compelling that GE decided to scoop up a few 3D metal printer manufacturers themselves in order to secure the technology for themselves. This interest has in turn driven huge interest in 3D metal printing, leading to several new parties entering the market.
But the technologies such events have used are in fact older 3D metal printing technologies that have been around for a while. The most frequently seen technique, in which energy is applied selectively to a flat bed of fine metal powder, is what is most often used.
But is that the “right” way to do 3D metal printing?
Several new companies think the answer is something different. Xjet is one company that’s developing a unique nano-particle powered approach, but they are still in the testing stages.
Another one is Desktop Metal, who have hinted they have something very powerful, but haven’t yet revealed precisely what they’re up to. Hopefully this year they will release something, as the curiosity level is driving me crazy.
But there are others working on the 3D metal printing problem.
I’ve encountered several parties developing a variety of techniques, but none seem to be as secretive as Velo3D, a company based in silicon valley, California.
There seems to be almost zero information on what this company is up to. However, there are some clues:
According to LinkedIn, the company now has at least 51 staff (as of this writing). That’s quite a few for a small startup. If they indeed have this many staff, one can surmise they have a complex product and are readying production capabilities.
They are currently hiring for the following roles:
- Senior System Software Engineer
- Sr. Computation Mechanics Engineer
- Sr Simulation Engineer
- Process Engineering Manager
- Process Engineer
- Senior Technologist
- Sr Reliability Engineer
- Sr. Test Automation Engineer
- 3D Geometry Software Engineer
- Patent Attorney
That last one is interesting, as they must have enough patent work to justify at least one FULL TIME position to deal with it. They also already have a “Chief Patent Counsel” on staff.
The company has no announced products or even technologies, and thus has no income stream, aside from that obtained from investors. In the case of Velo3D, the company raised USD$22.5M in a 2015 Round 1 investment. That’s more than sufficient to get something like this going.
What can we expect? It’s not clear when they will announce something, and I don’t seem them appearing as exhibitors in any upcoming major 3D printing trade show, so stay tuned.
My bet is that in late 2017 or early 2018 they may finally reveal their plans. I don’t think they can wait too much longer than that as their client base will be slowly committing to other technologies in the meantime.