Mar 9, 2017 | By Benedict
Digital Alloys, a spinout from the NVLabs division of New Valence Robotics (NVBOTS), based in Burlington, MA, has announced a $5 million Series A financing led by Khosla Ventures. Digital Alloys 3D printers will be able to mix multiple metals in a solid part.
Without meaning to discredit the work of leading FDM 3D printer manufacturers, multimaterial 3D printing with plastics is relatively simple. These days, FDM 3D printers with multiple print heads are commonplace, allowing users to print with soluble support structures or multicolored areas, and you’re now unlikely to find a major 3D printer manufacturer that doesn’t offer some multi-head printing option or other. Even without multiple heads, it is also possible to simply switch up filaments mid-print.
With metal 3D printing, however, things are a little different. Because technologies like SLS and SLM work by directing a computer-controlled laser onto a bed of metal powder, simply adding extra print heads won’t give you extra materials—that bed of powder, whatever material it consists of, will remain the same, and you can't just shake it up mid-print to add a different kind of powder.
Ultimately, to achieve multimaterial 3D printing of metals, you’re going to need something that more closely resembles FDM 3D printing than powder bed printing, allowing materials to be deposited from an external source, rather than sintered or melted from the print bed. And that’s exactly what NVLabs spinout Digital Alloys is offering.
Instead of metal powders, Digital Alloys 3D printers will use metal wire—not unlike plastic filament in appearance and function—as a 3D printing material. This means that the metal can be fed into the printer and extruded from above, just like an FDM 3D printer, introducing the possibility of adding multiple print heads and multimaterial capabilities. Of course, very high temperatures are needed to deposit metal in this way, but Digital Alloys claims it has the technology mastered.
The ability to print several metals at a time (and cheaply, too) has made Digital Alloys an attractive proposition, as can be seen from the success of a recent Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures, a firm founded by Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Khosla Ventures is an active investor in the 3D printing market, having also invested in Arevo, Feetz, and Velo3D.
Digital Alloys is a spinout from New Valence Robotics (NVBOTS)
During the financing round, Digital Alloys raised $5 million, which will fund the launch of the first generation of Digital Alloys 3D printers and 3D printing products.
“We are pleased to add one of the world's top venture capital firms to the Digital Alloys team,” said Duncan McCallum, CEO of Digital Alloys Inc. “Khosla Ventures has deep expertise and connections in the additive manufacturing industry that will help accelerate the launch of our first products.”
With the forthcoming range of Digital Alloys 3D printing solutions, users will purportedly have the ability to mix metals in a single part, allowing them to make new products with precisely engineered thermal, electrical, magnetic, and mechanical properties.
Early versions of the 3D printers may simply allow users to switch out materials mid-print from a single extruder, but we would certainly expect the company to introduce multiple print heads at some stage if this is the case. As Digital Alloys was only formed in January, we don’t have a huge amount of information about how its technology will look.
NVBots decided to spin out Digital Alloys as a separate venture due to the relatively small degree of overlap between plastic and metal 3D printing markets. With metal 3D printing seen as riskier but potentially more profitable in the long term, the decision was made to run Digital Alloys as a separate company, with former NVBots CEO Duncan McCallum becoming CEO of Digital Alloys. NVBots co-founder AJ Perez will take the reins of NVBots as chairman.
“Digital Alloys is building the fastest metal 3D printer we've seen, and it uses low-cost wire as its raw material,” said Dr. Vijit Sabnis, venture partner at Khosla Ventures. “These factors will yield large advantages in cost-per-printed-part.”
Posted in 3D Printer Company
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