Additive Manufacturing Upstart Brings New Dimension to 3D Printing: Multi-Metal

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3Q 2017 | IN-4744

If the 3D printers from Digital Alloys really can live up to the promised increased speed and reduced cost of multi-metal AM, mass market opportunities could emerge.

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Digital Alloys Develops Multi-Metal 3D Printing


Boston-based Digital Alloys spun out of New Valence Robotics in early 2017. New Valence, founded in 2013 by a team of MIT-educated engineers, offers 3D printers, cloud software, and integration solutions. It shipped its first printer in 2016. Another MIT engineer, Duncan McCallum, served as the CEO of New Valence in the months leading up to the spinoff and now works as the CEO of Digital Alloys, which focuses on multi-metal additive manufacturing (AM).

High Speed, Low Cost


PolyJet modeling, an AM technology used by companies like Stratasys and 3D Systems, can use multiple materials, but no metals. GE Additive, 3D Systems, and Sciaky all build metal 3D printers that use a variety of technologies to print a range of metals, including aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, bronze, and cobalt chromium, but they cannot mix metals into a single part. Digital Alloys’s 3D printers can do this, optimizing thermal, electrical, mechanical, and magnetic properties. It claims that it can print mixed metals at high speeds and at a fraction of the cost of other systems. While all three competitors see huge potential in metal printing, especially in the aerospace and defense sector, the cost and speed of their printers have hampered growth. Metal 3D printers can cost millions of dollars each and have yet to match the speed of traditional assembly lines for products with fewer parts or simpler assembly processes. If Digital Alloys can live up to its promises, it may expand the market size for metal AM.

Transforming and Expanding the Market to Reach Other Industries


In ABI Research’s report entitled Enterprise 3D Printing and Distributed Manufacturing (AN-2648), we forecasted that the aerospace and defense sector will make up a large chunk of AM growth over the next 10 years, producing US$24.5 billion in additive manufactured parts and products in 2026, an increase from approximately US$300 million in 2016, at a CAGR of 53%. This growth largely depends on regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), approving more metal parts for use in commercial aircraft, which they are expected to do by the end of 2018.

Digital Alloys has an excellent chance at winning market share in this sector, if new regulations cover its printers and the parts it makes. But the company needs a lobbying arm or a partnership with one if it hopes to target this market. Digital Alloys’s bigger opportunity may lie in other sectors, if it can breach the barriers to entry. Currently, metal AM only makes business sense for small numbers of complex or customized machines or parts (see ABI Research’s report: Enterprise 3D Printing and Distributed Manufacturing (AN-2648). Depending on how fast and how cheaply the printers run, Digital Alloys could bring AM to mass manufacturing of metal parts in other industries. Most manufacturers of metal parts might only use a 3D printer for prototypes, if at all. AM will likely not replace entire assembly lines, but it could replace traditional welding. Digital Alloys only got started a few months ago and has US$5 million in funding so far; however, if it really can significantly increase the speed and reduce the cost of metal AM with multiple metals, it could transform and expand the AM market to reach other industries.


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