Startup company MatterFab is said to be developing a new kind of 3D metal printer. We spoke with CEO Matt Burris to find out more.
Fabbaloo: What market are you addressing? Consumer or industrial? Or both? If both, what challenges must you overcome to develop a machine that can hit both?
Matt Burris: By dropping the cost of the high end metal 3D printers we can democratize access to 3D metal printing. Paper printing used to be limited to large printing presses that were very expensive and difficult to run. Xerox completely changed the game by making the power of the printing press affordable and accessible to every business. We want to give every business the power of 3D metal printing, and through companies like Shapeways, we can give everyone in the world access to metal 3D printing. The explosion of innovation as we democratize access to metal 3D printing will be a game changer for both industry and individuals.
Fabbaloo: Do you have a timetable for release of the machine? Target price range?
Matt Burris: We will be delivering printers to our test partners in early 2015. Feedback from our partners we will be used to refine the system for a release toward the end of 2015. We are planning on selling systems for an order of magnitude lower price than the current high end systems on the market, which start at well over $1 million, while delivering the same quality parts and working with the same materials.
Fabbaloo: It appears that you’re using the metal powder/laser approach. We’re wondering if you are clear of patents held by others that may have similar technology?
Matt Burris: The MatterFab process is based on Selective Metal Welding, which uses lasers to selectively melt metal powder to weld up nearly anything layer by layer. Our approach to metal 3D printing is quite different than other techniques and provides a unique freedom that allows us to start solving some of the biggest challenges with
metal 3D printing and turn 3D metal printing from an art to a science.
Fabbaloo: It’s our understanding that certain finely powdered metals can be unhealthy. What plans do you have for ensuring the machine is safe for use, particularly by consumers?
Matt Burris: 3D metal printing has only recently left the research lab and entered manufacturing. Having grown up in that kind of environment, the basic technology and approach has been in need of a refresh and redesign to meet the needs of the new users of the technology. MatterFab is redesigning metal 3D printing from the ground up and tackling many of the major challenges including safe and easy powder handling. We are designing a system that can be used in the office, on a manufacturing floor, in a hospital or even in a garage.
Fabbaloo: Will you provide metal materials for the machine? Or will third parties be permitted to provide materials?
Matt Burris: We want to ensure that all users will have a great experience with our metal 3D printers. Part of delivering a great experience is ensuring that materials are available that work simply and reliably in our system. Currently there are only a handful of materials available for metal 3D printing which is a major limitation for the
technology, a limitation we intend to remove. We are pioneering a new materials approach that will involve all parts of the supply chain.
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