When Ely Sachs, the man who coined the term ‘3D printing’ helps found a 3D printing firm, you know it’s going to be something special.
Desktop Metal set out with a simple but ambitious plan: to produce a series of 3D printers which, although working with metal, do away with lasers, are small enough for office use, and allow firms like Ford and BMW to swap rooms full of stock for on-site production of any part they should need.
Desktop Metal’s industry support
Remarkably, it has achieved all this with its first products, and Ford and BMW have invested in the start-up themselves. Ford’s faith in its products – and its future – is such that it’s so far provided close to a quarter of the innovator’s funding. Its CTO, Ken Washington, sits on Desktop Metal’s board, alongside Jeff Immelt, former chief of General Electric.
Immelt described the company as a trailblazer for which he has tremendous respect, while Uwe Higgen, of BMW iVentures saw “huge potential for the highly competitive automotive industry to accelerate product development and production” using Desktop Metal’s products. Its process, he said, offered “a new way for the manufacturing industry to be smarter, faster and more cost-effective with metal 3D printing.”
Desktop Metal’s not-so humble foundation
It was clear from the beginning, then, that Desktop Metal was far from an average start-up. In its first six months it had hired just over two dozen staff, built its first prototypes and attracted close to $50m in funding. Some of that came from Stratasys, a leading developer of traditional polymer-based printers and one of the biggest names in additive production.
“Customers are seeking additional ways to incorporate metal into their essential design and manufacturing processes,” said Stratasys CEO, Ilan Levin, who described his company’s investment as a way of taking its commitment to cutting-edge 3D printing further. It was, he said, “empowering global manufacturers and engineers to expedite product development cycles by producing both plastic and metal parts in office-friendly and production-based environments.”
And the funding didn’t stop there. By the time it had closed round D, its fourth investment injection had raised the company’s value to $1.2bn, setting a new funding record that has yet to be bettered.
Revolutionary Desktop Metal products
Desktop Metal announced its first product in 2017: the Studio System. Designed for office use and employing an extrusion system, Desktop Metal has played its ace card. The technology, if not the material, will already be familiar to operators of polymer-based FDM printers, reducing the need for staff training, and the associated costs.
Its first customer, Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group, was swiftly joined by the US Navy.
David Beardsley, who heads Google’s ATAP, was enthusiastic, describing how his team “will experience shorter lead times, faster product development cycles and the benefits of functional prototypes in an array of metals on demand and in the lab.”
Desktop Metal delivering on its vision
The printers itself is fuss- and mess-free, with steel, copper, aluminium and several hundred alloys quickly and easily replenished. The entire print process is an innovation, too, controlled by means of a unified, cloud-based workflow, which handles design, production and finishing.
With its revolutionary technology, Desktop Metal has delivered on “a vision to change the way parts are manufactured,” said Steve Taub, senior director of advanced manufacturing for GE Ventures, who commented, “we see a huge potential for engineers to rethink the way parts and products are made both domestically and abroad.”
With two patents under its belt and more than 100 pending, it’s no wonder MIT Technology Review called Desktop Metal one of the 50 smartest companies in the world.
With accolades like that, Laser Lines is proud to welcome Desktop Metal to its suppliers list – and bring both its Studio system to Britain.