Xact Metal has adapted their inexpensive metal 3D printer technology to enable the use of copper material.
I spoke last week with Xact Metal CEO Juan Mario Gomez, who explained the Pennsylvania-based company is doing quite well during the global pandemic. He told me that at first prospects looked dire, as they quickly caught up with their order backlog, but did not see orders pick up at that time.
Then something interesting happened: orders flowed in, and Gomez believes it’s because many companies still need to use metal 3D printers, but can no longer afford the high prices of Xact Metal’s competitors. Thus they turned to their low-cost option and now the company is experiencing “double-digit growth”, something Gomez describes as “Fantastic!”
I asked whether Xact Metal has made any technological developments and was surprised to find that they have now enabled copper material on their latest equipment.
Xact Metal Copper
Gomez explained they’ve been receiving many requests for copper, which is notoriously difficult to 3D print with the PBF process. Apparently the demand is coming from manufacturers wishing to produce highly complex copper metal antennas and heat exchangers.
But Gomez explained there was a significant problem when attempting to 3D print copper powder on their 3D printers: the metal is so reflective that the 200W laser would bounce off and heat up other portions of the machine. Specifically, the belts used in Xact Metal’s machines would emit a small amount of fluids upon exposure. While the belts themselves remained fully functional, the fluids eventually worked their way into the optical system, fouling the laser beam.
The solution involved using a doped copper powder (C18150) that decreased reflectivity somewhat, replacing the observation window with less reflective material, and installing heat shields on the belts. This completely solved the problem, and now allows Xact Metal performance-level machines going forward to be able to 3D print copper powder.
Gomez says they are shipping their first unit with this capability right now.
Xact Metal Sales
The new copper capability will surely open up many more customer markets for Xact Metal, as there are relatively few metal 3D printers able to print with that material. Those that do tend to be quite expensive or have other aspects that may not fit well with recent client demands.
However, Xact Metal seems poised to take full advantage of that upcoming demand as they have recently expanded their sales and distribution networks. Gomez says they now have “90% coverage” in Europe, and soon will have “100% coverage” in North America.
One of their most recent partners is Cimquest, a large distributor of manufacturing equipment based in the Eastern US.
With the development of copper capabilities, Gomez says Xact Metal is receiving sales leads they’ve never seen before, suggesting that indeed copper is an entirely different market for 3D printing.
Via Xact Metal