As metal 3D printing enters a new phase in which quality control is crucial for the industrialization of the technology, we have seen a slew of developments related to overcoming the issues associated with the technology. This is particularly true for laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) processes that represent the overwhelmingly dominant technology in the metal 3D printing space.
Among the parties attempting to fill the quality control gap is Sigma Labs (NASDAQ: SGLB), one of the few independent manufacturers of melt monitoring systems. With a firm foundation among users and printer manufacturers in the aerospace and military industries, Sigma Labs has already seen its technology gain significant traction. Now, it has announced that machine tool maker DMG MORI has chosen Sigma Labs for quality assurance in its LASERTEC SLM machines.
After the two businesses collaborated to ensure that Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D platform could be integrated into DMG MORI’s LPBF machine and perform adequately, will be releasing an interface for its 3D printers that enable them to be “PrintRite3D Ready.”
Sigma Labs’ technology combines thermal sensor hardware with software to analyze a build for errors in real-time. In addition to featuring thermal density and black body temperature metrics, the platform relies on machine learning to predict the locations of anomalies in 3D printed metal parts.
As Sigma Labs continues to make headway in metal 3D printing, it may need to compete against new entrants like Additive Assurance, which attempts to differentiate itself in a couple of important ways. Unlike PrintRite3D, which requires integration of hardware into 3D printing equipment, Additive Assurance boasts a system that can be mounted to the viewing window of the printer. Additionally, the Australian startup captures continuous streams of light intensity from the energy beam being used, allowing it to obtain more information than is gathered from the melt pool alone.
By taking on a large partner like DMG MORI, Sigma Labs may be able to extend its technology to the machine tool manufacturer’s hybrid directed energy deposition (DED) systems, which may be an advantage that Additive Assurance does not yet have, as it is currently focused on PBF. What it’s like to mount PrintRite3D hardware into a hybrid DED machine, I’m not sure. It may require taking into consideration many more variables than with an LPBF system that performs only one function.
An additional aspect of the news is that DMG MORI and Sigma Labs announced their first joint customer, IN4.OS. This privately held organization is aiming to drive the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” through the use of such technologies as artificial intelligence and “cyber-physical systems.” IN4.OS is leveraging DMG MORI’s machines to establish “Smart Factories of the Future”. Its first factory is dubbed IPSUM Technologies LLC and located in Pickens County, South Carolina, where it will use DMG MORI equipment, including nine machines it purchased in November 2019. In 2020, it added four AM-specific machines from DMG MORI, as well.
In other words, though there is not a lot of information about either IN4.OS or IPSUM available online, they already appear to be a lucrative customer for DMG MORI and, therefore, Sigma Labs.
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