3D printing businesses are reflecting an activity level not seen since before the 2014 bubble, with acquisitions and IPOs being announced left and right. Coming off of its deal with Rapidia for an office-friendly bound metal 3D printer, ExOne (Nasdaq: XONE) has announced its purchase of the assets of Freshmade 3D. The Ohio-based startup had patented a method for producing durable tooling from sand forms 3D printed on ExOne equipment.
Freshmade 3D’s AMClad Tooling is a process by which 3D printed sand forms are infiltrated and coated to produce a wide range of tooling. This can reduce the time to create tools by weeks or months, while also cutting costs by 30 to 50 percent. As explained in the video below, AMClad is ideal for shorter runs or for manufacturing processes that might require metal tooling in the long run. It’s durable enough to create a usable, 3D printed bowling ball. That means that these tools can withstand such applications as vacuum forming, composite layup, compression molds, molds for urethane casting, trim fixtures, sheet metal stamping, hydroforming and more.
“We launched AMClad with the idea of using sand 3D printing technology to deliver hard tooling faster and with more design freedom, to enable U.S. manufacturers to produce more locally and faster,” added Rich Wetzel, Freshmade 3D co-founder, who will now join ExOne’s applications team. “ExOne is the best company to accelerate this technology as we scale up for customers who’ve decided to leverage our solution to meet production goals faster. Companies are just beginning to discover how robust and affordable this technology is over conventional tooling.”
ExOne’s machines have been used for the production of large tools for some time. Sacrificial tooling for composite layup that washes out with water is one such application. Freshmade 3D’s approach has other benefits, however, that ExOne believes will speed up industry adoption of 3D printed sand tooling. In particular, ExOne believes it serves to benefit aerospace customers:
“We are delighted to add Freshmade 3D’s patented process for creating durable 3D printed tooling to our portfolio,” said John Hartner, ExOne CEO. “We plan to scale up this process for a global aerospace customer, who intends to use this tooling for composite layup of parts. This is an ideal solution for companies looking to shorten supply chains and produce tooling and final products locally.”
ExOne will not only be able to enhance its own place in the world of 3D printed tooling, but also in art and restoration applications. AMClad is already used to fabricate replication statues, exterior reproductions of architectural elements and even chrome detailing for classic cars. AMClad parts can be processed with a variety of finishes, including metal, stone and paint. ExOne points to a replica of the Liberty of Poetry, the Italian sibling of the Statue of Liberty, which was once hosted at Ellis Island and now maintained at Kent State University.
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