Velo3D, one of the leading manufacturers of metal additive manufacturing (AM) systems for aerospace and space, has announced the release date for its new Sapphire XC 1MZ, which will be the largest volume printer the company produces. Currently, that title belongs to the original XC, released at the end of 2021.
Velo3D says that it plans to deliver the first XC 1MZ systems to several aerospace companies sometime late in the third quarter of 2022. Quite straightforwardly, the “1M” in 1MZ refers to the fact that the machine can handle objects up to one meter in height. This gives it twice the build volume of the XC, as well as, according to the company, the largest build volume of any laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) printer on the market.
Given its niche as a leading provider of AM hardware in the aerospace and space sectors, specifically, it makes sense that Velo3D has started to focus on higher build volumes. Combining that with the company’s emphasis on automated quality control should solidify its position in aerospace and space, and give it an advantage in any sector with high production volumes of large, heavy parts. This is especially significant, all the more so because the automotive industry continues to scale up its incorporation of AM into production lines. Honda is already a Velo3D customer, and the company will likely attract more automakers in the near future.
This matters far beyond quarterly and yearly sales numbers, because of the specific juncture where the AM industry currently exists. The next few years could very well determine the fates of what have been, thus far, the industry’s best-known companies, in particular on the hardware side.
The hardware manufacturers that benefit from both the automotive and aerospace sectors’ scale-up of AM usage will not only sell more machines and make more revenue, but will also be creating the standards for the entire ground floor of 3D printing’s use as a mass manufacturing technology. This has a multitude of implications for the role of those companies — like, potentially, Velo3D — in the industry’s evolution, perhaps the most notable among those being control over the supply chains for AM materials.
It’s still of course hard to say to what extent large-scale industry will end up adopting AM, let alone which companies may have real staying power, aside from the ones that have already been around for decades. But I think you could certainly do worse in terms of a potential formula for general success than a combination of large build volumes and automated quality control.
Images courtesy of Velo3D
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