Metal Additive Manufacturing

For many, metal additive manufacturing is not just the fastest growing area of industrial 3D printing – it is industrial 3D printing. The segment is booming, it has been booming for nearly a decade and is likely to continue to grow very rapidly for foreseeable future.

Any recently recorded slow-down in adoption only concerns specific technologies. For example, laser PBF experienced a phase of extreme growth and then a relatively slower period as other processes such as laser (and other types of) DED enjoyed more widespread adoption.

Now the metal AM market is entering the next phase of its growth, driven by process optimization, automation, and industrialization of PBF and DED. Metal PBF technologies are larger and faster than ever, with metal binder jetting now aggressively entering the market led by Desktop Metal (ExOne) and now HP’s Metal Jet, with more on the way (from Markforged/Digital Metal and GE Additive).

Companies, such as Velo3D, EOS (via AMCM), SLM Solutions, Farsoon and E-Plus introduced the largest metal PBF systems, with build volumes beyond 1 meter on the Z-axis and fast multi-laser (up to 12) capabilities. New startups, like Seurat and Vulcan Forms are presenting new methods to metal PBF 3D print faster, for mass production. And the binder jetting companies target production with a drastic cost reduction to address demand in the consumer and automotive industries.

At the same time, a large number of new technological approaches are populating this market. These include affordable bound metal printing, leveraging filament extrusion processes, and high-res metal printing, leveraging stereolithography-based bound metal AM. Other processes, which implement different types of cold metal consolidation (ultrasonic, kinetic) are also targeting high-speed production of extremely large parts to near net shape, where they square off with increasing adoption of DED systems in the machine tool industry.

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