An Update On XACT Metal, The "Accessible" 3D Printing Alternative
I spoke with XACT Metal’s CEO, Juan Mario Gomez recently to obtain an update on the startup company’s strategy.
XACT Metal System
We first encountered XACT Metal in 2017, when they began exhibiting their prototype low-cost metal 3D printer. Their design is quite interesting, because it does follow the familiar powder bed-laser approach used by most of the metal 3D printer vendors. However, XACT Metal’s configuration is available at vastly lower prices.
Most producers of metal 3D printers focus on the high-value aerospace, medical and automotive industries, where numerous certifications are required to produce high-quality parts repeatedly. To do this, operators of said equipment must establish rigorous procedures, air-tight workshop environments and much more. It’s a very expensive proposition to set up such an operation. The true costs of metal 3D printing involve more than the printer and the material.
And as a small company, XACT Metal has a tall mountain to climb to match the vast marketing power of the established metal 3D printer players. Instead, they seem to have chosen a unique market for their products and are succeeding.
XACT Metal CEO
Gomez explained they are now shipping products, and can deliver devices only two months from order. They’ve been very busy setting up local sales in Europe and Asia, having already done so in the USA.
Gomez believes it is critical to have local sales and service to ensure customers have the best possible experience. Currently some 80% of their sales are done through resellers providing these services.
The company has also been able to be placed on the US Army GSA schedule. This step should allow XACT Metal to sell through the US military’s vast network much more easily.
XACT Metal Strategy
But the really interesting part is the target market for XACT Metal. Instead of pursuing the high-end aerospace players in a crowded 3D printing market, they have instead chosen to focus on local machine shops.
These are operations that produce arbitrary metal objects on request from local clients, typically in small volumes.
These machine shops sometimes receive orders for parts that are somewhat difficult to produce, perhaps requiring multiple steps to produce or complex molds to be designed. While these customer requests are processed, they have to charge the client a lot more to do so. In many cases, the client balks at the higher price and no transaction takes place.
In other words, these machine shops do lose business occasionally because they don’t have the right technology to produce the parts economically. XACT Metal believes their 3D printer can meet that challenge, as the technology can produce any arbitrary geometry required.
The costs of producing such parts using 3D printing can be less than the cost of doing so with traditional tooling. Thus the acquisition of an inexpensive metal 3D printer could be quite an advantage for a local machine shop, which could then scoop up that segment of the local market much more easily.
XACT Metal Sales
According to Gomez, these machine shops are quite excited about the prospects, and they have been buying the product. Apparently in 2019 XACT Metal has increased their sales 4X over 2018, and expects to grow similarly in 2020.
There are an awful lot of metal machine shops across the globe. All of these are candidates for buying XACT Metal equipment.
XACT Metal Partnerships
The company has also made some rather key partnerships. First, by partnering with Autodesk and Materialise, they have been able to overcome concerns from prospects more easily. It seems that if you are associated with those two, you are immediately seen as relevant by potential clients.
The second type partnership by XACT Metal is quite interesting. They’ve partnered with Praxair, a global provider of industrial gases. This may seem quite strange, as a gas cylinder company might have not much to do with 3D printing, but in this case there is a very strong link.
The major clients of Praxair would in fact be those very machine shops that could become XACT Metal clients. If Praxair sells welding gases to a machine shop, that’s another good contact for the company. This is a very good move.
Finally, Gomez states that they have seen some companies switching to XACT Metal from previously using Markforged and Desktop Metal metal 3D printing equipment, both of which happen to be priced similarly to XACT Metal’s offerings. It’s not clear why this would be the case, but perhaps these machine shops are seeing something we don’t.
Via XACT Metal