The adoption of current 3D metal printing technologies in production is limited by slow print speeds, high production costs, and complexity of achieving consistently high quality metal.
Digital Alloys is an organization which develops high-speed, multi-metal additive manufacturing systems that print production quality parts, in almost any metal, at a fraction of the cost of other systems, making metal 3D printing economical for a greatly expanded mix of applications. Digital Alloys metal 3D printers have the unique ability to mix multiple metals in a solid part, enabling customers to push the limits of design and create new products with optimized thermal, electrical, magnetic, and mechanical properties. The company is led by an experienced management team, and backed by Boeing Lincoln Electric, G20 Ventures and Khosla Ventures.
The Astute Leader
Duncan C McCallum is the experienced CEO, investor, and board member with 20+ years of successful launching, leading and financing new ventures. As CEO, Duncan has co-founded, built and sold two companies namely Cilk Arts and VeloBit. As a venture capitalist at Bessemer Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures, he led investments in 16 companies that produced 12 acquisitions and an aggregate market capitalization in excess of $1.5 billion.
Early in his career, Duncan led control system research teams at Draper Laboratory. He holds two degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Joule Printing- A Simple New Technology in Printing
Despite great interest, the use of metal additive manufacturing in production applications has been limited by high production costs, slow printing speeds, complexity, and quality issues. Current methods take too long to be practical, or require the use of dangerous materials, specialized hardware, and multiple complex finishing steps involving shrink compensation software, chemical baths, and furnaces. Look past the hype around metal 3d printing, and you’ll find it’s rarely used in production.
Joule Printing™ solves these challenges. The core invention was inspired by a few simple observations:
- Low production costs require both an inexpensive raw material and high printing speeds.
- Printing speed is gated by how quickly heat moves to the desired melting location.
- Metal 3D printers work by positioning and then melting raw material to build up 3D parts. For optimal speed, cost, and repeatability, the process should use as few steps as possible.
- Repeatable quality requires an ability to directly measure and control the melting process.
A key is that positioning and melting of the wire occur simultaneously in a single step. This radical simplicity lowers cost, saves time, and increases repeatability. There is no need for powder handling, feeding and spreading, no need for binding/debinding, and no need for sintering – and no need for the costs, time delays and variability these steps introduce.
Joule Printing™ provides precise closed-loop control of melting at the voxel level. Since the wire is held in a precision motion system, we know exactly where the melt is deposited. Unlike a direct energy deposition system, there is no dripping or splashing. We use the precision wire feed system to measure and control how much metal goes into the melt pool. The electric circuit provides measurement and control of how much energy is applied to the melt. This combination of tightly controllable process parameters allows the system to deliver consistently dense (99.5%+) isotropic parts that are stronger than castings. In addition, the process data for every voxel is saved for post analysis. In combination with our machine learning technology, this provides the capability for non-destructive QA of printed parts.
Advantages of Joule Printing
When you’re using joule heating, you’re heating the metal from within. Since there is no thermal time constant, you can heat the metal very rapidly with very low energy. This means that there is no thermodynamic speed limit; we’re able to print at the speed at which we can move with precision and accuracy. Our goal is 5 or 10 kg/hour by the end of the year. With a very high speed and low raw material costs, overall production costs are significantly reduced.
Reflecting on the future prospects of the company Duncan says, “We’ll be building our first factory for providing printed parts in 2019. Our goal is to ship the printers to customers in early 2020.”