Mantle, a company whose proprietary 3D printing technology makes high-precision metal parts, came out of stealth and launched its TrueShape technology. Mantle is focused on improving the time-consuming and expensive process of creating tools and has developed what it describes as “the most precise and efficient metal 3D printing technology for the tooling market”. The company previously secured an unannounced $13M investment by Foundation Capital, Hypertherm Ventures, Future Shape, 11.2 capital, Plug and Play Ventures, and Corazon Capital.
“Manufacturers require proven part quality and performance. By using Mantle printed tooling, they can continue to use the same high-performance thermoplastics and get parts of equivalent or superior quality in less time and at a lower cost,” said Ted Sorom, CEO and co-founder of Mantle. “We help companies speed their products to market with dramatically faster new product introductions while leveraging their proven mass production expertise.”
Historically, product development cycles have been gated by tooling since manufacturing companies cannot launch new products until the exact molds and dies to produce them are created. These tools are made from high-hardness steel through a multi-step process that includes programming, cutting, and finishing the tools. This intensive process takes months and can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mantle’s process takes just days, which allows companies to deploy new tools within a few weeks while cutting costs by at least half. The result is that companies can innovate with new products faster than ever before.
“Mantle gives you the superpowers to make Apple-quality mechanical parts in days not months and lowers your cost by orders of magnitude. That speed and affordability lets you iterate to get your parts to perfection and still lets you launch much earlier. I wish we had these Mantle tooling breakthroughs for our Nest, iPod and iPhone projects!” said Tony Fadell, Principal at Future Shape.
The AM industry has pursued the tooling market for over 20 years. However, until Mantle, other 3D printing technologies have been too imprecise or too expensive to be successful. In the tooling industry, precision matters: a tool that is too big or too small by ½ the width of a human hair can be the difference between a product that works and one that does not. Mantle’s TrueShapeTM process is the first 3D printing technology that meets these requirements because it combines both additive manufacturing and subtractive finishing into a single hybrid 3D printing process, to yield superior accuracy and surface finish. The process uses unique bound metal pastes that produce high-hardness steels that meet or exceed the tooling industry’s demanding requirements.
“Mantle’s TrueShape™ technology delivered the dimensional tolerances and surface finish that are needed for the precision molds we use at L’Oréal,” said Blake Soeters, Director Product Conception at L’Oréal. “We are excited because of the positive impact this technology will have on our ability to rapidly bring new products to market.”
Using a 3D printed Mantle tool insert, a global appliance manufacturer has already produced over 200,000 washing machine parts. The Mantle mold component cost 67% less than the cost from traditional methods and was produced in 70% less time. Similarly, a leading medical device manufacturer reduced the lead time for its tool by 80% with Mantle. The printed tool performed just as well as tools made with traditional methods.
“Mantle is taking on the overlooked $45 billion tooling market that is a bottleneck for innovation because it is a slow process that has not changed significantly in 70 years,” said Steve Vassallo, General Partner at Foundation Capital. “Until Mantle, no one has been able to develop tooling tech that is disruptive in either time or cost, let alone both, which made backing Mantle an easy decision for us.”
Mantle’s TrueShape technology includes multiple tool steel materials, custom printing hardware, and a user-friendly software suite to deliver toolmakers a complete production-grade tooling solution. Tooling is just the beginning for Mantle. Additional solutions are on the roadmap for a wide range of applications in the $300 billion precision parts market, including jigs and fixtures, low volume industrial machinery and spare parts, and high volume part production.