Metal 3D printing has been an exciting market segment to watch in 2021, with the competition over bound metal printing heating up. However, polymers can’t be left behind, as we’re sure to see more developments in that space, as well. The latest comes from AddiFab, the developer of Freeform Injection Molding (FIM), which has just received $6.3 million in a funding round led by West Hill Capital and oversubscribed with twice as many investors as anticipated. The round was completed in only 48 hours, according to the startup.
Because photopolymers are limited in their physical properties, vat photopolymerization processes such as stereolithography and digital light processing (DLP) typically can’t be used for durable end-use parts. FIM has found a way around this obstacle.
FIM relies on DLP 3D printing, designed in-house, using specialty material formulations to produce parts that can then be placed into standard injection molding (IM) systems to create IM parts. The 3D printed parts are hollow so that they can be filled with molding material. This opens up FIM to the over 40,000 materials available in IM.
In addition to introducing new physical properties to 3D printed parts, FIM may also enable a streamlined process for certifying parts for given applications. For instance, a FIM part made from an IM material already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will likely not require the same rigorous testing as one designed specifically for 3D printing. The same is true for aerospace components where an IM material has already been certified for use in aircraft.
It’s no wonder, then, that Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials (MCAM) teamed up with AddiFab in 2019 to offer FIM-as-a-service in the U.S., E.U. and Japan. We saw this partnership highlighted with a recent competition hosted by Wevolver and MCAM.
The funding will be used to improve AddiFab’s marketing efforts related to FIM, as well as increase the number of AddiFab machines in production to meet increased demand. To quickly triple the production capacity for AddiFab systems, the company is moving to new, bigger facilities. The site is located near Copenhagen airport in Denmark.
AddiFab CEO Lasse Staal explained the benefits of the move: “At AddiFab, we are dedicated to supporting our customers in their implementations of Freeform Injection Molding. The new headquarters allow us to take this support to an entirely different level. Whether it be extensive feasibility studies, on-site R&D projects or deliveries of larger FIM system packages, we will be able to accommodate customer ambitions.”
So far, AddiFab offers a complete workflow of equipment, which include the AFU5 3D, the actual 3D printer with a build volume of 54 x 96 x 200 mm, as well as a lab bench for handling the parts once they’re printed, a cleaning system with automated and manual rinsing of parts, and a demolder for dissolving the printed molds.
The only other competitor to offer similar advantages to AddiFab would have been Collider, but the Tennessee startup seems to be no longer operating. Given the possibilities of combining the advantages of 3D printing (low-cost, custom, one-off parts with complex geometries) with IM (a vast range of proven materials), one wonders if Collider and/or AddiFab might end up in our Dream Mergers and Acquisitions series soon. But who would the lucky buyer be? MCAM would be a natural guess.
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