Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) has had its stock price double in recent months amid a very frothy time for Wall Street. With signs that the bears are wrestling the bulls to the ground, can the company meet expectations? Through its recent revenue-driven Envisiontec acquisition, the firm has acquired sales and, along with it, a whole host of polymer technologies and applications. Now, the firm has said it will offer another future pillar for making good on its promise: the Studio System 2 in Q1.
Usually in binder jetting you have to print, debind, and then sinter in distinct steps in different machines. The conveyancing of batches and the chemicals with which you have to work make debinding not fun. At the same time, this is an extra handling cost that drives up part price. With the Studio 2, the company claims to have eliminated debinding as a step and can now burn out the binding material in the sintering oven.
That would make it much more likely that you could actually use this system in an office now. $700 million later the company may now finally make good on its promises from 2015. It would be good for the industry if DM could meet its valuation and expectations while keeping its promises going forward.
It’s worth noting that Rapidia, another metal 3D printing startup, offers a metal 3D printing process similar to the studio system that also eliminates debinding. So, Desktop Metal may need to watch its back. However, Rapidia lacks many things that Desktop Metal does not, including a large-scale binder jetting line, carbon fiber 3D printing system, a massive valuation and public backing, and EnvisionTEC.
Desktop Metal states that its “Fabricate software workflow fully automates part creation through printing and sintering to produce high-quality, end-use parts with densities and feature accuracy similar to casting.” The company says that the system will ship in Q1, and also says that it has been shipping the Studio 1 system in volume since Q4 2018.
Ric Fulop, Desktop Metal CEO, commented in a press release:
“As additive manufacturing adoption advances worldwide, Desktop Metal continues to drive innovations that enable the technology to more effectively compete with conventional manufacturing processes. Our next-generation Studio System 2 takes the best features of the original Studio System+ and significantly improves upon them, delivering higher quality end-use metal parts through a more streamlined and accessible process, and within an even smaller footprint.
“Based on the success of our original Studio System, we know companies around the globe are eager to adopt our new, more streamlined Studio System 2 process to produce difficult-to-machine parts featuring complex geometry like undercuts and internal channels.Across manufacturing, tooling, automotive, consumer products and electronics, and medical applications, companies are sharing how additive manufacturing is challenging their design and engineering teams to think differently about how to optimize designs for best-in-class part success.”
Desktop Metal states that the Studio 2 “minimizes the trial and error common in alternative 3D printing processes, enabled by new print profiles and a re-engineered interface layer material for more even shrinkage during sintering and increased part success across an array of geometries” and has an “enhanced surface finish” due to a heated build chamber along with better print profiles. The company claims that “New isotropic TMPS infill creates strong parts, ideal for end-use applications. Vacuum sintering in the Desktop Metal furnace at temperatures of up to 1400°C produces parts and mechanical properties that are similar to castings.”
The printer will launch with one “two-step” material, 316L steel, but more are on the way. The printer, “will be backwards-compatible through the use of the debinder, with all materials previously supported by the Studio System, including 17-4PH stainless steel, 4140 low alloy steel, H13 tool steel, and Copper.”
After years of delays with initial systems and some purported returns, has the company got it right this time? Truth is, we won’t know for many months. Manufacturing equipment has to be tested, evaluated, and work for millions of parts. It will take time for people to disassemble the system, test the parameters, and to qualify it for production. Many coupons and test parts will have to be printed before that. If customers are unable to do this or unable to get it to work, then we may have a problem.
Could it be this time the company could have gotten things right? Did they learn from their previous problems and do they now have a working system? This is what Wall Street will want to know today, but, in all honesty, we could not tell them that now.
We will interview DM customers as soon as we can. Reach out to us if you have your Studio 2 System up and running! So far, it has been impossible for us to get DM customers to speak on the record about the company’s 3D printers. We hope to get some feedback from customers soon.
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