TRUMPF Acquires SISMA Metal 3D Printing Venture

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TRUMPF is a sizable and interesting player in the metal 3D printing world. One of the world’s biggest machine tool makers, the company has moved in and out of additive manufacturing (AM). It was an early developer of directed energy deposition (DED) systems in 2000 before making a more committed effort to 3D printing in 2014 through a joint venture, TRUMPF SISMA S.R.L., with Italian partner SISMA S.p.A., with TRUMPF owning 55 percent of the shares. Now, the German conglomerate is purchasing the entire entity.

Sisma’s line of metal 3D printers.

TRUMPF will continue SISMA’s line of laser metal fusion (LMF) machines, allowing it to direct its technology as the industrial, dental and medical markets. Meanwhile, SISMA will continue focusing on the jewelry and fashion industry, for which it will distribute LMF systems on behalf of TRUMPF. TRUMPF SISMA is based in Schio, in Northern Italy, where about 60 employees have been developing LMF technology.

Using 3D printing, TRUMPF fabricated the impeller for a gas compressor in just half the time it would normally take to produce. [Image: TRUMPF Group]

The news is interesting in light of TRUMPF’s sale of One Click Metal, a TRUMPF spin-out dedicated to metal laser powder bed fusion (PBF) machines for $100,000. This suggests that the $3.5-billion German machine tool maker is sticking to industrial applications, rather than entry-level machines that might be more useful for research purposes. Meanwhile, CNC machine manufacturer INDEX Group has acquired One Click Metal.

Indeed, it seems confusing that TRUMPF would give up stake in what could be an important segment of metal 3D printing only to acquire the SISMA project. Executive Editor Joris Peels pondered the larger strategy of the family-owned firm in a previous post:

I can only assume that the company still believes that the Langer family will eventually sell EOS to it. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Because, on the one hand, they must be spending a lot of money making a lineup in systems, but, on the whole, I don’t seem them making headway in terms of excitement, sales or capabilities. They do engineer handy items and features, but the stuff that AddUp is doing to make their machines more production ready is more useful. Trumpf also doesn’t seem to be entering into the laser wars with Farsoon’s eight-laserAdditive Industries’ 10-laser or SLM Solutions 12-laser launches. And these folks make the lasers!

So, is Trumpf simply using the fact that they’re family-owned to give themselves a ten-year perspective and solid long-term plan? Or is the company up to something else? Are these machines simply development work? And is the company really working on a diode laser system? Trumpf’s Tru Diode laser machines are reportedly used in additive and the company uses them for the TruLaser DED systems. The company also makes VCSELs. Its VCSEL infrared power units are used in part heating and welding, as well. Is the company just getting the basic processing of powder down before it leaps into a two-million laser system of some kind? If it could preheat specific parts and areas and then print the entire layer at once with its own technology and knowledge, it could have one hell of an entrance into the metal 3D printing market. Is that what they’re up to?

The financial transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the year. What’s next for TRUMPF? It’s difficult to tell, but it’s hard not to think it has something up its sleeves.

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