We’ve been very excited about the push-button metal 3D printing market we identified in 2021. We basically noted that there was a huge shift in the affordability of metal 3D printing systems and outlined this in a series of articles. Far from the 12-laser laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) systems and the hype around metal binder jet, we could see new machines come on the market that defied expectations.
These include accessible low-cost direct energy deposition systems from Meltio, as well as value-engineered L-PBF 3D printers that brought machine costs way down. Machine costs are a big portion of overall part cost. By requiring an investment of $2 million or so to set up an L-PBF machine, the number of firms that can adopt metal 3D printing is severely restricted. But One Click Metal, with its easy-to-operate laser system was defying the conventional investment picture. Another value engineered system was from Laser Metal Innovations (LMI). LMI subsequently got an investment from the venerable firm of Kurtz Ersa. This family-owned German machine builder was founded in 1779 and now is a leading producer of electronics manufacturing equipment, such as soldering systems, EPS molding machines, and casting equipment. Kurtz Ersa invested in LMI with an aim to globalize its offering and expand the firm.
Now, the firm is distributing its 3D printers through Würth. Würth Additive Group, will now offer the Alpha 140 3D printer. The company describes the machine this way: “Alpha 140’s fiber-coupled diode laser is guided coaxially to the powder bed, enabling a constant focus diameter across the entire build space and creating optimal properties for metal processing. Through innovative re-engineering, they have removed up to 40% of the machine’s cost and a historical point of failure seen on other systems making it a true plug ‘n produce machine.”
“Partnering with Würth Additive Group will give Kurtz Ersa Inc. a significant boost in bringing the Alpha 140 to the American market and Würth customers. The extensive knowledge and experience with metal 3D printing brought by Würth Additive Group, combined with Kurtz Ersa’s track record of producing market-leading technologies and top-rated service will allow us to elevate customer capabilities and support,” said Albrecht Beck, president and COO of Kurtz Ersa America.
The Würth Group is a huge, family-owned German firm specializing in almost all elements of the industrial supply chain. With $15 billion in revenue, the company distributes over 400,000 parts globally and has quickly grown its investments into 3D printing since 2020. This began with an agreement to distribute Markforged 3D printing services, which was followed by the offering of digital inventory services for oil giant Baker Hughes. In 2021, Würth began distributing Arburg Freeformer 3D printers in North America.
“Kurtz Ersa has been creating well-built and sustainable products for over 200 years. The innovations they have brought to the market since 1779 are remarkable, from their initial business of a water-driven hammer to soldering, to molding equipment, they truly understand the needs of a manufacturing environment, and we are excited to present this innovation and technology to our customers,” said AJ Strandquist, chief executive officer of Würth Additive Group..
The fact that they are speaking about digital inventory and additive manufacturing is significant in and of itself. This is a huge logistics and parts firm that has stepped into our market with an increasingly diverse additive manufacturing offering. For Kurts Erza, this is a great partner with whom to extend its’ offering to North America. The North American Würth group alone has revenues over $1 billion.
“Kurtz Ersa and Würth have had a long and productive history as customer and supplier. By reimagining status quo inventory management, we can drive down costs, not by cutting corners but instead by intelligent engineering. We’re happy to support our customers through more efficient and profitable inventory solutions,” said Dan Hill, chief executive officer for Würth Industry North America.
What makes it potentially much more impactful is that the Alpha 140 can be installed with all the mod cons necessary for under $200,000. This significantly reduces the required investment and means that hundreds of thousands of firms can now potentially buy a metal 3D printer capable of making L-PBF parts. This could potentially significantly expand the 3D printing market. Indeed, if Kurtz Ersa can obtain significant volume, then it may be able to move upward and increasingly penetrate the market held by EOS in more sophisticated systems. Even if it does not, it could obtain significant revenue and make our market far larger than it is.
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