While, as with recent announcements of upcoming metal technologies from HP Inc. and Stratasys, the introduction was of a concept not yet market-ready, that’s where the similarities end, as rather than an industrial-scale — and industrial-footprint and -cost — setup, ZYYX is looking to a more accessible system more in keeping with those we’ve seen emerge from Desktop Metal and Markforged. ZYYX is working on a metal 3D printing solution for desktop use.
We first heard about their metal ambitions last week, and today I caught up with Mats Moosberg, CEO of ZYYX, to learn more.
The company’s primary focus in showing at TCT Asia was to highlight and support its work with its partner Shenzhen Esun Industrial Co., Ltd. (ESUN), which distributes the ZYYX Pro in Asia. The partners have appeared together at events before, including at November’s formnext in Frankfurt, where I had the opportunity to speak with both companies’ CEOs regarding their collaborative work in distribution and R&D.
Supporting ESUN at TCT Asia, and selling the ZYYX Pro 3D printer, was at the top of the show’s to-do list — but Moosberg and team “decided to show something about our next generation printers as well,” he explained. And the metal tease stole the show.
“We have been developing a disruptive metal 3D printing technology for some time and we are now for the first time showing it publically. The technology is based on a patent pending process for creating sintered metal objects,” Moosberg tells me.
“Similar to the SLS/EBM/binder jetting or filament based metal printing technologies we use metal powder as the supply material, but in a binder that makes it safe to handle and use without any special measures necessary.”
Among the familiar technologies already developed for metal additive manufacturing are powder-based methods such as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), selective laser melting (SLM), and electron beam melting (EBM); binder jetting (also called inkjet); directed energy deposition (DED); and extrusion-based options using metal-impregnated filament.
3D printing trade shows often feature a wide variety of metal technologies as the sector picks up speed and more options are introduced with a rising frequency. Proprietary processes are coming more into the limelight as companies now including ZYYX develop their own unique capabilities.
Targeted toward “real prototyping and one-off production” applications, Moosberg explains that ZYYX has entered this arena to respond to customer needs in an area where the company “sees a great opportunity.” The desktop technology is being developed with safety in mind so users will be able to operate the equipment safely in their own environments. Enhancing the user friendliness is a price point designed for accessibility, with what Moosberg describes as a total system cost of below €10,000.
“The objects we are showing at TCT Asia are really just proofs of concept, and we are fine tuning the process and we will be able to show much more demos shortly,” he tells me of the choice to introduce the developing solution this early in the process.
“We have been discussing whether or not to show these since they are really not at the level the technology will perform, but we feel that the remaining technology steps are low enough to feel confident we will get there. We have also started talking to different parties for funding the development and commercialization of the product and we think that showing real prints is a good way to get more attention.”
ZYYX is working initially with copper, bronze, brass, and steel, a metals portfolio that will expand as the technology progresses. The company is already looking into additional metals to add.
While full details are not yet being released — internally, the team simply calls the yet-to-be named project the “ZYYX metal printer” (though usually in Swedish, as “ZYYX metallskrivare” has a bit more of a ring to it) — Moosberg did divulge that the process will be three steps, explaining:
“The first step is to build up the object, the so called green body, and here we have an FDM-like process that enables high resolution (about 50um) and possibility to create any geometries, also with voids and lattice structures inside the object.
The second step is to remove the binder to create the so called brown body and our process does this without any toxic substances.
The third step is to sinter the brown body into a solid metal part, and here we have some innovative techniques that simplify this step compared to other systems.”
He notes as well that objects created using this method will have “comparable resolution and mechanical properties” to results from existing filament-based solutions, though the technology is different.
The ZYYX system currently sees “a a sintering level of more than 98%, and a shrinkage of about 21%,” he adds.
“Currently we are doing early stage prototyping but since the process is actually not so complex we are confident that we can have a product out in 2019,” Moosberg says of the expected timeline.
We’ll look forward to keeping in touch with Moosberg and the innovative team at ZYYX as this latest metal 3D printing solution continues to progess.
Join the discussion of upcoming metal 3D printing systems from ZYYX (and HP, Stratasys, and more) and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.[Images provided by ZYYX]
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