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Freeform emerges from stealth with autonomous printing factories

The company's "software-defined" approach to manufacturing was developed by a team of former SpaceXers (also Velo3D, Carbon, Tesla, and Apple)

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Freeform, a cutting-edge metal 3D printing company founded by accomplished leaders and engineers from SpaceX, is emerging from stealth and deploying software-defined, autonomous printing factories around the world. The company’s stated goal is to bring on-demand production to mainstream industries and enable the future of innovation. Freeform’s advanced printing technology eliminates historical production barriers and allows manufacturers in any industry to quickly go from idea to volume production.

Freeform’s team comprises industry leaders from the likes of SpaceX, Velo3D, Carbon, Tesla, and Apple, who in their experiences have successfully overcome the challenges of disruption. Freeform has raised $45M to date and is backed by leading Silicon Valley investors including Two Sigma Ventures, Founders Fund, and Threshold Ventures. Mo Islam, Partner at Threshold, and Dusan Perovic, Partner at Two Sigma, are on Freeform’s Board of Directors.

A few considerations immediately come to mind. One is that the Freeform name was not yet taken by another additive manufacturing-related company. Another is that the Freeform.com website address is taken by an on-demand video service (which doesn’t make a lot of sense). More seriously though, one significant consideration is that the number of digital manufacturing projects and companies in Silicon Valley (and nearby areas) is now starting to add up to quite a few very interesting companies. It began with Arevo but now others such as Velo3D, Carbon, 3DEO, Arris, Morf3D (Nikon) as well as the many space companies on Space Beach are creating a powerful hub that is going to shape manufacturing in the decades to come, by quickly embracing and investing projects that have the potential to “freeform” the future of advanced production.

A scalable factory architecture

Historically, manufacturing limitations and a heavy reliance on human labor have fundamentally limited the pace of innovation and resulted in long and costly efforts to scale production. While 3D printing had promised to overcome these challenges, printing at scale had yet to be realized – incumbent technology is too slow, the cost and effort of owning and operating machines are too high, and even the best systems on the market today are unable to consistently produce high-quality parts quickly.

Freeform’s autonomous printing factories and manufacturing-as-a-service business model solve these challenges. Its proprietary technology stack brings the scalability of software to physical production by leveraging advanced sensing, real-time controls, and data-driven learning in a scalable factory architecture. As a result, the company is producing digitally-verified, high-quality parts at unprecedented speed and cost. This breakthrough approach enables all industries to innovate faster by leveraging additive manufacturing to produce parts at mass production scale.

“While at SpaceX, I leveraged metal 3D printing to accelerate the development of numerous rocket engines. We were innovating in ways that were not possible before and accelerating our trajectory toward the future; however, we ultimately realized that it was impossible to print at production scale using even the best current technologies. We founded Freeform to solve this problem and to make this transformative technology available to all industries, giving anyone the ability to rapidly take an idea and produce it at scale,” said Erik Palitsch, Co-Founder and CEO of Freeform. “We’re bringing the best talent on the planet together to disrupt the manufacturing industry, and with our recent fundraise, we’re excited to scale production capacity to make printing at scale available to all industries.”

Freeform emerges from stealth with autonomous printing factories and "software-defined" approach to manufacturing
Brandon Connors, Head of Programs and Manufacturing at Embark Trucks said that Freeform’s printing service enables the company to meet manufacturing needs, improve supply chain reliability, and change designs without impacting delivery time to accelerate the deployment of their technology.

Trukin’ from prototype to production

Freeform is already helping customers to innovate and get products to market faster. “As Embark brings autonomous trucking technology to market, we need the ability to seamlessly scale up from prototype to production,” said Brandon Connors, Head of Programs and Manufacturing at Embark Trucks, a leading developer of autonomous technology for the trucking industry. “That means sourcing commercial-grade metal parts on short timelines, consistently and at a practical cost. Freeform’s printing service enables us to meet our manufacturing needs, improves supply chain reliability, and gives us the ability to change designs without impacting delivery time so that we can accelerate the deployment of our technology.”

In addition, Freeform is enabling customers to easily scale from initial designs into high-volume production. “Freeform offers us the ability to scale up from prototype to production,” said Nick Doucette, Chief Operations Officer at Ursa Major. Ursa Major is an American aerospace company that works with Freeform for the manufacturing of rocket engine parts. “Freeform’s printing service gives us the ability to change designs rapidly without impacting production cost or delivery time. We are able to get consistent, high-quality metal parts in days instead of weeks.”

In an unparalleled pace of development, Freeform has gone from the initial concept to deploying its first production-scale printing factory in just a couple of years and has to pay customers across advanced energy, automotive, aerospace, and industrial sectors.

“Freeform has revolutionized the additive approach,” said Scott Nolan, Investor from Founders Fund. “Others have tried addressing one component or problem at a time, like thermal stress, but no one else has rethought the entire architecture and approach. Freeform has created more flexibility for how parts are printed, and their cost-effective model has opened up a whole new class of 3D printable parts.”

Partner at Two Sigma Ventures, Dusan Perovic, who led Freeform’s most recent round similarly affirms that Freeform is the right company to scale metal printing for the first time. “Freeform represents a quantum leap forward for additive manufacturing. And perhaps just as importantly, Erik, TJ, and the team are the right people to bring this technology to a range of industries–blending expertise and engineering savvy, with a mindset of constant improvement.”

 

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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