Uniformity Labs Raises $38M for Possible Breakthrough in Metal 3D Printing Powders

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3D printing company Uniformity Labs has just announced that it has raised $38.35 million in a Series B fundraiser. IP Group and Orion Resource Partners participated, but it is unclear who else was or who did the previous  round reportedly totaling $5 million. Uniformity Labs has been operational for over six years with a staff comprised of materials scientists and engineers. Now, the startup will use the money to expand its portfolio and marketing organization. 

The company claims that, with its materials and software, existing printers will be more efficient. Manufacturing materials for powder bed fusion (PBF) and binder jetting, the firm claims, “Uniformity powders spontaneously attain high relative densities, approaching that of the densest crystalline particle packings, while retaining their ability to flow.” It also suggests that its powders have “negligible phase separation and maintain low viscosity / high fluidity”, have “100X+ more contact points between particles” and “porosity that is reduced to 15% to 30% (compared to 40% – 50% for typical powders).”

The company also states that, for powder bed it has:

  • “3-10x increased printer throughput due to low porosity powder and advanced printing processes
  • Reduced use of support structures → faster printing and less finishing required
  •  More reliable printing due to less warpage and residual stress
  • Reduced material usage and waste
  • No impact to powder recycling”

While for binder jetting, Uniformity claims:

  • “50% reduction in linear shrinkage sintering to 99.5% final part density
  • Increased green part strength
  • Increased printer throughput due to higher use of build volume (reduced shrinkage) and improved powder spreading
  • Larger, more accurate printed parts due to less warpage and shrinkage
  • No impact to powder recycling”

Overall, the startup believes that its materials achieve the following:

  • Feedstock porosity reduced by 50% or more
  • 10x thermal transport
  • 4x more energy absorptive
  • Faster and More Reliable Printing

Straight off the bat, part of me is thinking, “Wow!” Then, also, “How?” and then, “Why?” So I’m a bit confused at the moment.

The company goes on to say, “Powder can be made from any metal or non-metal material. Powder and processes outperform on all major printing platforms.” This sounds a bit fantastical to me, but, yeah, of course, you could optimize the packing of anything so it fits together better, but that doesn’t mean that it will work better.

Finally, Uniformity states that it can increase print speeds by up to ten times, reduce part cost by 80%, and double part strength.

The go-to-market is interesting, as well. The company wants to offer its processes and powder to existing machines. Its “print processes” are software agnostic and available on any platform. This will then optimize any printer for the firm’s dense powder. The printer can print the optimized parts faster using its powder. It will be interesting to see how they enter the market and if they will be able to work with OEMs or change existing printers in the field.

I’m also confused as to why, if they have this technology, don’t they also have a metal injection molding, or other powder metallurgy, offering.

If this pans out, it could be a very exciting new technology that could move us all forward. At the moment I’m having a little difficulty wrapping my head around this to see if it could be possible and, if it is, if that would lead to the results that the company claims. Its a very exciting development either way and we’ll be reaching out to Uniformity to see if someone can explain it to us.

Michael Burychka, CEO of IP Group, Inc., says of the funding round:

“As its founding investor, IP Group is excited to see Uniformity Labs poised to disrupt the AM market. Adam Hopkins and his team have done a tremendous job developing the core technology created in Professor Sal Torquato’s labs at Princeton University to unlock the potential of powder-based manufacturing. UL is an excellent example of our focus on supporting the commercial development of innovative hard science from premier research institutions like Princeton,”

Salvatore Torquato has indeed done a lot of exciting work in materials science, including in sphere packing and hyperuniformity. You can find the paper on hyperuniformity here.

Across the board, we can see that, if this bears out, it will be a very impactful development. To me, the results sound fantastical. Even if packing density in the bed were to increase, I would not expect the dramatic improvements that the firm quotes.

Packing density, in and of itself, is not the be all end all for these processes. Even if you have a perfectly packed binder jetting bed, I would anticipate some improvement, but would not expect it to be as rigorous and across the board. With PBF, packing helps, but, as far as I know so far, it could not lead to the dramatic effects that the company quotes here.

I also have questions as to their go-to market. This only makes sense as a prepackaged or fated sale to someone. Will an OEM just buy or partner with Uniformity Labs or will they have trouble accessing the market itself? Watch this space.

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