SLM Solutions is teasing us with a pending announcement of something “big”.
The long-time manufacturer of industrial metal 3D printers has been uncharacteristically active in the past year. While their equipment has always been well-regarded, they have been making large steps forward recently.
Last fall they announced the massive NXG XII 600, an enormous device equipped with an incredible twelve powerful lasers, able to 3D print huge metal parts in a single job. At the time it was billed as the “Miracle Machine”.
Now, only seven months later, something else is brewing at the German company. They’ve indicated a major announcement of some kind is to come on Wednesday, June 23rd.
Their CEO, Sam O’Leary, said:
“Last year we introduced an industry gamechanger—the NXG ll 600—but we won’t stop there. Today, after three years in the making and care of many of the world’s most visionary engineers, we are proud to add a new technology to our portfolio.”
“This new technology is another milestone, not only for us but for the entire industry. As a high-tech company, we are once again shaping the face of additive manufacturing with this product launch. It’s the next disruption in the manufacturing industry, so it’s worth attending.”
That’s all fine, but what exactly could this be? The only hint is one line in their press release:
“The new product empowers the creation of metal components with previously impossible designs and unmatched productivity, reducing overall material usage and minimizing the end-part cost to achieve industrial-scale production.”
Let’s take this apart.
SLM Solutions has not specifically mentioned the word “printer” in that sentence. Could it be that this is NOT a 3D printer, but is some associated hardware that can greatly simplify the workflow?
It doesn’t make sense to announce an even larger 3D printer. What would we see? A machine with 32 lasers? 64? I think the market has yet to absorb the potential of the NXG XII 600 yet, so a larger machine is likely not the subject of the announcement.
Some possibilities here:
The “new product” might be a system designed to simplify the workflow. Perhaps they have a system that can automatically shuffle build chambers between the printer and the post-processing station? Or integrate post-processing equipment with the existing machines in some way?
If the announcement is in fact a new 3D printer, it likely will not be a massively large device like the NXG XII 600. Instead it may use a modified PBF process that can achieve greater part accuracy. Could this be a binder jet system that can operate at high volumes? If so, that would be quite a departure for the company that up to now has marketed PBF systems.
Another possibility is an AI-powered quality control system that could be adapted to existing machines. It could collect data from a wide array of sensors, including optical, thermal, vibratory and more, and use machine learning algorithms to tweak the printing process in real time to ensure near-perfect 3D prints each time.
Which could it be? I am leaning towards the second option, a binder jet system. This would meet many of the descriptive elements in their statement:
- Metal components: possible with a binder jet system; this style has been done by HP, XJET and others
- Previously impossible designs: Binder jet systems don’t employ high heat that can distort metal designs during printing
- Unmatched productivity: Binder jet systems can be scaled up to high volumes and can operate with huge throughput
- Reducing material usage: Binder jet powder could have a much higher reuse rate than PBF powder
- Minimized cost: Binder jet systems, if scaled up and operated at speed, could produce items at lower costs
That’s my bet. But I don’t win bets often, so watch out.
Via SLM Solutions