Following a bleak 2020, impacted by challenging slowdown conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic, 3D printer shipments are starting to bounce back after supply-and-demand constraints made this one of the most difficult years in recent economic history. For many manufacturers, sluggish economies worldwide proved particularly difficult. However, it seems that the pandemic has also shed light on a new reality, mainly that global uncertainty, supply chain disruptions, and slow conventional manufacturing throughput, could trigger accelerated adoption of additive manufacturing (AM).
Burlington, Massachusetts startup and 3D printing unicorn Desktop Metal announced its Shop System machines are now being manufactured in volume and shipped to customers around the world, with installations underway throughout North America, the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, as well as Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Launched in 2019 as the “world’s first” metal binder jetting system designed for machine shops and metal job shops, the Shop System machines are already being used worldwide to print end-use metal parts in volume and at part costs unattainable with legacy AM processes.
“The Shop System offers the most cost-effective, highest resolution mid-volume production solutions in the industry. Its high-speed, single-pass print engine introduces high-quality binder jetting to an entirely new market of machine shops, casting foundries, and powder metal component suppliers,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and Co-founder of Desktop Metal. “With the Shop System, engineers and plant operators can now eliminate many of the constraints previously imposed by traditional manufacturing methods, like CNC machining, and achieve affordable, reliable, and flexible batch production of complex parts.”
The general availability of the Shop System is another major announcement that follows Desktop Metal’s recent signing of a definitive business combination agreement with blank check company Trine Acquisitions, to accelerate its go-to-market efforts and further drive its relentless intentions to advance R&D.
Desktop Metal claims its machine is the most cost-effective solution in the industry, designed to scale throughput to each shop’s needs. Starting at $166,500 for the 4L build volume printer (350 x 220 x 50mm) and up to $241,500 for the 16L build volume printer (350 x 220 x 200mm), this high-speed, single-pass print engine introduces high-quality binder jetting to an entirely new market of machine shops and metal fabrication job shops, a nearly $180 billion global industry. With the Shop System, shop owners are expected to eliminate many of the constraints previously seen with traditional manufacturing methods like CNC machining and tap into new opportunities to reduce their costs and increase revenue.
“Many of the benefits that have long been touted for 3D printing -mass customization, complex geometries, lightweighting, assembly consolidation, tool-free manufacturing, digital inventories, and more -all come bundled as part of AM 2.0,” said Fulop. “Taken together, this suite of benefits represents a new approach to the way metal parts are being designed, prototyped, and now, with the Shop System, manufactured.”
As a solution for mid-volume parts production through AM, the company considers the Shop System to be a “critical element of the Additive Manufacturing 2.0 revolution,” that won’t just change how products and parts are made, but could fundamentally alter the manufacturing landscape. Enabling throughput, repeatability, and part costs that can compete with conventional manufacturing processes, and turn the AM sector into an estimated $146 billion market by the end of the decade, according to the 2020 Wohlers Report.
Many early adopters of the technology are already realizing the potential it has to expand its production efforts. Manufacturers such as Jade Creaction in Portugal, Wall Colmonoy Limited in the UK, Alpha Precision Group in the U.S., EAC Luxury Goods in France, and the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), are just a few examples of companies and institutions already leveraging Desktop Metal’s high-quality binder jetting technology.
Other companies, like Texas-based Impac Systems Engineering (ISE) have recently acquired the Shop System and claim to now scale to hundreds of near-net-shape parts daily, with dramatically reduced labor costs and expanded geometric flexibility relative to traditional methods, such as machining and casting. Similarly, Alpha Precision Group (APG), a leading provider of engineered powder metal and metal injection molding, has been looking forward to the recent purchase of the Shop System as a technology that will help its customers iterate designs extremely quickly and prototype products with no tooling costs and short lead times.
One of the first adopters of the Shop System technology was France’s metallurgical industries association (UIMM) training center, the AFPMA. The professional institute has invested in metal AM technologies from Desktop Metal to provide technical training to operators of industrial companies in the Ain region, contributing to the skills development of young people, employees, and job seekers. Also in France, the Technical Centre for Mechanical Engineering Industry (CETIM), believes Desktop Metal’s metal binder jetting technology is opening new opportunities to design parts with new properties and functionalities.
CETIM’s Chief Operations Officer Pierre Chalandon, described how “Desktop Metal technologies, including the new Shop System, completes our additive manufacturing machines park. We chose to be one of the first Shop System adopters because we are convinced it is now possible for metal binder jetting to decrease the global cost, increase the production rate, increase the quality and definition and accuracy, develop new materials and simulate the process – especially sintering – to control the capability and the quality.”
Metal binder jetting is turning into a key 3D printing technology, ideal for printing complex metal parts at fast production times. Many new companies have come into the field to create their own binder jetting technology, yet Desktop Metal continues to be one of the leaders in its sector. The latest announcement of volume production of the Shop System could encourage rapid mass-market deployment and is ideal for accelerated adoption of the technology.
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