Morf3D Invests in 12-Laser Metal 3D Printer from SLM Solutions

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Nikon subsidiary Morf3D, a service company with a focus on aerospace parts, will purchase two SLM 500 systems and one NXG XII 600 from SLM Solutions. This is a serious investment by the firm into a significant expansion of its metal printing capacity.

The NXG XII 600, which will be delivered in 2022, is the 12-laser system that so far has found customers with car companies in Europe and aerospace firms in the states. This behemoth 3D printer is meant to be 20 times faster than single laser machines, with estimated build rates of 1,000ccm/h within a 600 by 600 by 600 mm build volume, and the potential to print 10,000 kilos of parts per year. In response to this machine, others have announced their very own large-scale, multi-laser systems and a real war in complexity has been going on as the industry tries to launch similarly elaborate, giant printers. (See 3D Systems, Additive Industries, and Farsoon for examples.)

That Morf3D will lay down the money for one now shows the scale of its ambition to become a leader in the outsourced manufacturing of space and aviation components. It’s a big bet by the firm and its parent, Nikon, on SLM Solutions, and the company’s ability to deliver on the system.

As I’ve stated before, 3D printers are often late and are unexpectedly intricate. In this case, the total complexity of the system will be considerable, as will some unknown effects in the build chamber in heat bleed between lasers, for example. This means that there is quite a bit of risk still present in that development.

Nikon is paying a few millions for a rendering essentially. Kudos to them for having the juevos. Funnily enough, Nikon is one of very few companies worldwide making supremely accurate lithography chip fab systems, so it could totally make a metal 3D printer, too, if it wanted to. But, for now, at least it is focusing on using its metrology equipment, knowledge, and cash to help Morph grow.

The two SLM 500s systems are no slouches either, being quad-laser printers with a 500 x 280 x 365 build volume and automated powder handling systems that can build very large parts. This is a significant commitment by Morf and a huge win for SLM, especially since EOS is very active in the segment, and 3D Systems is also working on a similarly ambitious printer for aerospace.

“Our partnership with SLM Solutions dramatically shifts the landscape of serial production enabling our customers to achieve unmatched levels of quality and performance. The NXG XII 600 platform is an engineering marvel that addresses many aspects of a production-ready system, and the ADMC will enable new industry partnerships, significantly scaling AM to new heights. Our goal is to accelerate the qualification process by collaborating on new application development and part certification within the aerospace, space, and defense market,” Morf3D CEO Ivan Madera said.

“Adding the NXG Xll 600 to Morf3D’s SLM Solutions’ machines to the Applied Digital Manufacturing Center bolsters the collective digital manufacturing ecosystem, helping to improve production speed, quality, and automation. We are united in our customer-first approach, which reflects the training and education we provide to all of our partners,” SLM Solutions CEO Sam O’Leary stated.

Since qualification and certification in aerospace take so long, while part life could be considerable, the battle for dominance in the commercial space, defense, and aviation businesses are being won and lost right now, but will play out over the next decade. EOS and its AMCM custom machines unit have a strong offering now and many new printers will come out in the next few years that will shape the market for decades. With the explosive growth in commercial space’s utilization of metal printing happening now, this is an especially important win for SLM at this very moment.

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