AMS Spring 2023

VulcanForms Raises $355M for Industrial-Scale Metal 3D Printing

Inkbit

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An MIT spinout has emerged from stealth with a unique form of metal laser powder bed fusion (PBF) and $355 million in funding. With investors from Eclipse Ventures, Stata Venture Partners, Fontinalis Partners, D1 Capital Partners, Standard Investments, Atlas Innovate, Boston Seed Capital, Industry Ventures, and the Simkins Family, VulcanForms is now valued at $1 billion. Moreover, it already has two “digital production” facilities in Massachusetts, Devens and Newburyport, where it is 3D printing metal parts for customers.

The result of over $100 million in capital investment and more than 100 employees, the startup’s facility in Devens is dubbed the VulcanOne. It features a fleet of the company’s 100kW PBF machines, totaling 2mW of laser capacity. That’s up to 250 times more power than existing PBF machines, which typically max out at 1 kW per laser. However, the Laser Wars have seen companies increase the number of energy sources from 1, 2, or 4 lasers all the way up to eight to 12. For example, the NXG XII 600 features 12 lasers with 1kW of power each, which is a little over one-tenth of the energy boasted by VulcanForms.

The VulcanOne factory with VulcanForm’s metal 3D printing systems. Image courtesy of VulcanForms.

Doing the math, the VulcaOne site should have 20 systems in total. As for the technology itself, the firm hasn’t elaborated too much on how its technology works except to say that it combines simulation, in-process sensing, and machine learning. Based on this patent application, it could use an array of many lasers to 3D print large areas at a time. This granted patent suggests that it could use a line laser, which projects the energy as a line rather than a point, to increase throughput. That puts it in

The Newburyport site is set up for finishing, with “automated precision machining and assembly operations.” To establish this facility, the company acquired Arwood Machine Corporation. Together with the VulcanOne location, VulcanForms has established what it considers to be a complete digital manufacturing infrastructure.

“By scaling advanced digital manufacturing, we can create a new era of U.S. innovation and economic growth,” said VulcanForms Co-Founder, President & CEO Martin C. Feldmann. “We’ve recognized a game-changing opportunity when additive manufacturing technology is scaled for industrial production and is seamlessly integrated with automated machining and robotics. VulcanForms has built the physical infrastructure and digital workflows to deliver this full-stack manufacturing solution at unprecedented speed, precision, quality, and scale. Our technologies combined with our team of engineering and operations leaders from Google, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Precision Castparts, IPG Photonics, Faro Technologies, Schlumberger, Alcoa, Autodesk, among others enable our customers to innovate, grow and deliver sustainable impact faster.”

Not only is the VulcanForms team itself made up of industry veterans, but its customers are about the biggest you can imagine. Specifically, the firm says that it supplies more than 12 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) programs, such as F35 Joint Strike Fighter and Patriot Air Defense System. Less specifically, VulcanForms has said that it “has delivered thousands of components for the semiconductor industry, and is enabling innovation in medical implants.”

“VulcanForms brings forth metal additive manufacturing as a scalable industrial process, and as a cornerstone of breakthrough digital production systems,” said VulcanForms Co-Founder John Hart, also a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. “Integrated digital production facilities are critical infrastructure which will accelerate domestic and global innovation and draw top talent to the manufacturing sector.”

“There is a fundamental shift in the ways manufacturers need to adapt to global supply chain challenges and the increasing demands for product design flexibility. VulcanForms’ full stack approach to deliver an engineered solution, combining advanced additive and subtractive technologies merged through a digital thread will revitalize U.S. manufacturing and hardware innovation,” said Greg Reichow, Partner at Eclipse Ventures and Director of VulcanForms. “The technologies that enable this agile workflow will dramatically impact the way products are imagined, designed, built, and delivered for decades to come.”

For the time being, the company is using its own equipment to manufacture parts as a service. VulcanForms will help select candidate parts, design them for additive manufacturing with its technology, simulate production, qualify the end product, and produce at scale.

We already know that VulcanForms has been operating for some time since it received $2 million in seed funding from Eclipse in 2017. So, while more specifics about its exact PBF technique and post-processing methodology will certainly be revealed, we can say that it has received substantial validation. Validation to the tune of $355 million and contracts from the U.S. DoD.

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