Progress With Desktop Metal’s Newest 3D Printing Systems

By on April 29th, 2020 in interview

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Progress With Desktop Metal’s Newest 3D Printing Systems
[Image: Desktop Metal]

[Image: Desktop Metal]

In the last few months, Desktop Metal has introduced its Shop System and Fiber setup; we caught up to discuss progress and updates.

Desktop Metal isn’t one for doing things in a small way (small footprint, maybe, with the Studio System, but that’s no small thing, either). So when they said they had some updates, I was initially worried 15 minutes in our Rapid-Fire Interview wouldn’t be enough. Thanks to speed-talking and speed-presenting, though, we were able to do some proper catching up on the Boston-based company’s latest cases, applications, and impressions.

Desktop Metal Shop System

The Shop System, introduced in November, is geared toward metal shops looking to produce mid-volume runs of complex metal parts.

Desktop Metal Co-Founder and CTO Jonah Myerberg began by noting that everything is still on track to ship as planned. Per the initial Formnext announcement, general availability was slated for autumn 2020, so that’s good news for metal shops making production plans for later this year.

To refresh on the Shop System and catch up on some of the emerging applications, Myerberg told me:

“The Shop System fits into our portfolio between the Production System and the Studio System, in terms of both price point and capability, and is a good gap filler. You know the Shop System from Formnext; it’s great to open up into metal 3D printing at a low cost and high capability. It offers superior part quality compared to other technologies, including high resolution, and uses the highest native DPI at over 670 million drops per second. It also has five times redundancy, more than any of the competition out there trying to do the same thing.”

With the “how to make” established, we got more into the “what to make.” So then — what parts are a good fit for the Shop System?

“Any parts you would cast, really,” Myerberg said plainly.

Among some of the best candidates are:

  • Near-net shape parts

  • Complex geometries (though simple is of course possible as well)

  • Parts that would be CNCed

  • Part costs in the range of $50-$100, in quantities of “a few to a few thousand”

Essentially, it’s mid-volume production of parts that don’t require tooling, leveraging that favorite benefit of additive manufacturing: no tooling. Thus, “no investment or lead time, and no additional out-of-pocket or locking yourself into designs with tooling,” Myerberg noted.

Among some of the use cases we looked at were a clipper blade for cutting hair, a bulb nozzle for chemical processes, an O&G downhole tool slip, a bearing housing, a gear shift knob, and a clutch plate. Each of these are complicated parts that can reduce the need for assembly by consolidating part counts, offer good potential for replacements for consumable parts, and take a lot of stress, as well as achieve “a nice crisp end” and “shine up really nicely” through post-processing.

Over the next few months, shipping will take place for beta customers, though, like French company CETIM and Pennsylvania-based Alpha Precision Group. Myerberg describes CETIM as “a research lab that owns a number of technologies in 3D printing and is a real thought/experiment leader in additive manufacturing in France,” noting that they purchased one of the first systems and should have it “very soon.” Alpha Precision Group is, he continued, “a huge MIM manufacturer, working on the cutting edge of complex MIM geometries,” so the Shop System “fits in really well with what they’re doing” and is “the first of probably many metal 3D printers they’ll be bringing in.”

Desktop Metal Fiber

When Desktop Metal announced the Fiber in November, it was something of a surprise. (Perhaps it shouldn’t have been all that surprising, considering the company’s storied history with fellow Boston-based continuous fiber- and metal-printing company Markforged, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Fiber is Desktop Metal’s new continuous fiber composite 3D printer, and VP of Business Development Arjun Aggarwal noted some unique aspects to the system.

Fiber will be available in an interesting subscription service that has been “really resonating” with potential customers for a few reasons. “It’s accessible, has an all-inclusive price, and the flexibility to upgrade at any time,” Aggarwal explained.

“We’ve talked with prospects and have seen a number of applications that span interests,” he continued.

Among some of the uses we sped through were a skydiving camera mount, a surfboard fin, tooling and fixtures for machine shop customers, a UHF radio housing, and a heat shield. Aggarwal touched on strong interest in aerospace, industry, and R&D: “We see a lot of interest in advanced materials, with PEEK and PEKK where temperature resistance is a big thing, as well as chemical resistance, and EFD compliance.”

Current market conditions have changed up the plans for availability, though.

“When we announced, we said we’d start shipping in the spring. Unfortunately, the launch schedule is one of the things that’s been impacted by coronavirus, and now we’ll be shipping in the fall,” Aggarwal told me. “We will be engaging in relationships with early customers, similar to what we’re doing with the Shop System, over the summer, and then shipping in the fall… We’re seeing a wide variety of opportunities come to the surface here, and it’s really unfortunate we’ve had to delay.”

Two versions of the Fiber will be available, priced starting at $3,495/year (Fiber LT) and $5,495 (Fiber HT).

Desktop Metal Studio System

We touched as well on some quick updates on the Studio System side of business.

Here, it’s relatively “business as usual,” Aggarwal said, as the Studio System is “continuing to ship broadly; orders can be placed and shipped now.” This system has been shipping for over a year now, and has availability across about 45 countries.

A few of the applications we looked at briefly included work in aerospace, O&G, tooling, automotive, and consumer products. Specifics among these included zipper mold inserts made in Peru’s Corporación Rey; marine propeller prototyping for EWOL; agricultural equipment including a shaker hook for Cifarelli; aftermarket parts for ships; and more as a “broad array of new customers are emerging.”

Via Desktop Metal

By Sarah Goehrke

Sarah Goehrke is a Special Correspondent for Fabbaloo, via a partnership with Additive Integrity LLC. Focused on the 3D printing industry since 2014, she strives to bring grounded and on-the-ground insights to the 3D printing industry. Sarah served as Fabbaloo's Managing Editor from 2018-2021 and remains active in the industry through Women in 3D Printing and other work.

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