As recently reported by 3DPrint.com Senior Analyst Vanesa Listek, private investment into additive manufacturing (AM) startups has generally decreased from 2022 to 2023. However, there are notable standouts that have almost made up for the lack of numerous funding instances with their own large rounds. Fabric8 Labs was the last to take in a substantial chunk of money for its unique electrochemical AM technology. Now, another metal AM firm, Alloy Enterprises, has announced the completion of a $26 million Series A led by Piva Capital and joined by new investors Unless, Flybridge Capital, MassMutual Catalyst Fund, Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition, and existing investors Congruent Ventures and Riot Ventures. This brings the total raised by the startup to $37 million.
Alloy’s Aluminum 3D Printing Process
Alloy Enterprises has developed a novel metal 3D printing process similar to laminated object manufacturing with rolls of aluminum sheets. The technique first uses laser cutting to trace the outline of a part onto a sheet of aluminum. An inhibiting layer is then deposited to create in-situ supports. This process is then repeated with new layers of metal sheets that are then stacked and bonded under heat and pressure. Thanks to the inhibiting agent, the excess material can then be easily removed without specialized tools.
The process bears some resemblance to Impossible Objects’ composite-based AM (CBAM), only CBAM produces fiber-reinforced polymer parts, rather than metal. It also boasts similarly quick print speeds, claiming 25 times the rate of component production, from file to part, of other metal AM processes. Alloy relies on its own specialty feedstock, meant to be less expensive than the costly powders made for laser powder bed fusion, the dominant metal AM technique in the industry. According to the startup, it has its feedstock production scales to be able make 10 tons at a time. This summer, Alloy will be delivering production volume parts, already looking into qualifying new customer applications to meet its capacity.
“We have an incredible team with the ability to continuously solve hard R&D challenges while staying focused on the customers’ needs. We went from invention to commercial sales in less than two years. With this sizeable fundraise, we’ve added great partners to the table to help us take Alloy to the next level,” said Ali Forsyth, CEO Alloy Enterprises.
Upon receiving a Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences from Harvard, Forsyth previously led engineering teems at Desktop Metal and Open Water Power, acquired by L3 Harris. Her co-founder and CTO, Nick Mykulowycz, also hails from Desktop Metal, where he led development of the Studio System and its bound metal deposition technology.
Forsyth continued, “We’ve made rapid progress and have garnered Fortune 100 manufacturing customers in three major market verticals: automotive, industrial, and heavy equipment. We’ve proven our manufacturing process and are already qualifying customer production parts. We will use this funding to ramp production capacity, further develop our software suite, and apply next-gen automation. We’re open for business and scaling rapidly, including hiring across the board in sales, marketing, applications, software, operations, and manufacturing.”
Aluminum 3D Printing’s It Moment
Since material supplies like titanium are already heavily saturated in the industry, aluminum has become one of the most in-demand metals in AM, particularly as adoption for automotive end parts increases. This metal has twice the strength-to-weight ratio of steel, while remaining much less expensive than titanium, making it ideal for lightweighting in the transportation sector. As a result, it is a perfect partner for AM in vehicle electrification, with 3D printing able to produce optimized components for any number of automotive operations.
“The Alloy team has proven out a highly efficient process for delivering aluminum components quickly and at scale,” said Maria Buitron, Principal at Piva Capital. “This is a breakthrough for the industry that addresses the need for reasonable lead times, major cost reductions, and on-demand manufacturing, delivering direct benefits to EV, industrial and heavy equipment. We have been so impressed with the Alloy team and look forward to partnering with them to help them scale as the need for their solution ramps up.”
Alloyed Enterprises notes that the U.S. has dropped a third of its foundries. The investment round comes at a perfect moment in U.S. history, as the Biden administration and associated Congress implement a series of measures for revitalizing and reshoring the country’s manufacturing supply chain, with a heavy focus on transportation. Funding through the CHIPS Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act have already kicked off numerous projects across the U.S., while signaling to other nations that the country is finally serious about decarbonization. In turn, Canada, Australia, China, and members of the E.U. have pursued their own versions of advanced manufacturing programs and funding in the name of supply chain resilience and sustainable production.
“Alloy is poised to transform key industries at a critical time for companies concerned with building more resilient supply chains and reducing their carbon footprint,” said Liz Reynolds, Partner at Unless and Former Special Assistant to the President for Manufacturing at the National Economic Council. “We are at the beginning of an industrial transformation in which the country is reindustrializing. Alloy’s unique technology will help companies accelerate through this transformation.”
Founded in 2020, Alloy was already making parts within a year of getting off the ground. Its growth has been extremely rapid as it targeted a perfect material and verticals for its technology. Just as aluminum has become if the industry’s “it” metals, Alloy Enterprises has become one of 3D printing’s “it” startups.
Images courtesy of Aluminum Enterprises.
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