XJet is an Israeli startup that is developing what sounds like an amazing new metal 3D printing technology that looks like it could do for metals what Objet did for plastics and polymers. The PolyJet and PolyJet Matrix polymer jetting technologies that the original Objet team developed represent probably the most successful industrial 3D printing technology on the market. Most of the original development team has moved on since Objet merged with Stratasys back in 2012, but it looks like they didn’t leave their ability to create innovative 3D printing technology behind when they left.
The Israeli startup is the brainchild of two of the original Objet team, founder and former CEO Hanan Gothait and former EVP Dror Danai. Now XJet’s CEO and CBO, respectively, they are joined by several veteran Objet engineers. At the heart of the new 62-person company is some rather revolutionary inkjet technology that 3D prints using liquid metal materials that could turn metal 3D printing into a process that will be faster and cheaper than anything else on the market.
“In the same way that Objet helped create an industry for 3D printing using plastic materials, we intend to create an industry that will allow the same kind of custom printing for metal. Objet’s big innovation was inkjet 3D printing, using plastic materials like PLC. At Xjet, we are developing an inkjet printing tech for liquid metal, the first time this is being done anywhere,” Danai told Times of Israel.
Traditional metal part manufacturing is a costly and time consuming process that is often quite limited in what can be made. Because parts need to either be machine tooled or made from a mold, there are limits on the complexity of what can be produced. If the part is too complex or has an odd shape, it simply may not be possible to be manufactured. Even metal 3D printing, while often faster than traditional metal manufacturing, is still a laborious process that is far too expensive for all but the largest companies.
The inkjet technology being developed by XJet will allow the production of custom metal objects at considerable cost- and time-savings compared to anything else on the market. The world’s first direct 3D metal jetting system using XJet’s patented Nano Metal Jetting technology uses nanotechnology to create special metal liquids that can be printed as easily as inks, and will 3D print fully formed metal objects quickly and accurately. Xjet’s proprietary liquid metal materials consist of real metal nanoparticles suspended inside of a special liquid solution. This solution will be encased inside of a tube-like cartridge that can be directly inserted into the metal 3D printer.
“Because of the nature of the technology, each metal requires its own process to develop. We are starting with stainless steel, and expect the printers and the liquid metal to be on the market in 2016. After that we will work on other metals. Eventually we hope to get to all the major metals used in manufacturing. There’s a lot of chemistry involved, but we are a company that embraces the hard sciences. Fifty out of our 62 employees are engineers, and many of them are specialists in materials. Relative to our size, I think we may have the highest percentage of engineers of any tech company anywhere,” said Danai.
Xjet was one of a dozen startups that presented their new technology at the yearly Go4Israel conference in Tel Aviv, this week. The conference is widely considered one of the most important investment opportunities for Israeli companies, and XJet has already started conversations with a large sports car manufacturer to produce unique custom parts for their high end cars. And if the process is scaled up properly, it could even 3D print an entire car made from real steel and aluminum. The 3D printing industry has been looking for the first accessible metal 3D printing process, and it sounds like it may have just been found.
Let’s hear your thought on this 3D printing technique in the XJet forum thread on 3DPB.com