We ran into something entirely unexpected at FormNext: a machine that produces 3D metal printing powder on your desktop.
Well, almost. It’s not quite a desktop machine, but it is smaller than a desk. The refrigerator-sized ATO One device from Warsaw-based 3D Labs is capable of producing precision metal powder entirely suitable for use in modern powder-bed fusion style 3D metal printers.
Normally you’d expect to have the specialized powder developed in an industrial factory, but the ATO One is actually office friendly. In fact, we observed it running at FormNext where it was simply plugged into regular electrical power.
How does it work? This atomizer uses an electric arc and a precision vibration system. The input material, a standard industrial wire, is fed into the arc where it is vibrated vigorously. The finely-tuned vibration shakes off fine bits of material that instantly solidify into perfectly round metal particles.
By tuning the vibration, 3D Labs can control the size of the particles produce between 0.02 to 0.1mm in size.
You might wonder why you’d want to buy a machine to produce powder, rather than simply buying it ready-made from one of the several vendors of 3D metal printing supplies. The answer is that you can control the quantity and type of material. Whereas the vendors have a fixed list of products and minimum order quantities, you can control that with the ATO One.
In fact, you can simply order a spool of metal wire in almost any conceivable material as that is a standard industrial product - and then make your specialized 3D metal printing powder with it. You can also make only as much as you need, and use the wire spool only when required.
The machine is not inexpensive as it is priced at €99,000 (USD$117,000), although they have a discount until the end of the year at €79,000 (USD$94,000). This appears to be a popular concept as the company claims to have sold at least 30 systems during FormNext.
Via 3D-Lab (Polish)