Seurat raises $21M to take on casting and decarbonize manufacturing
CEO James De Muth targets millions of metal parts produced with "nuclear-inspired" Area Printing technology
High throughput metal AM technology developer Seurat Technologies just closed a $21M Series B extension with investments from new investors Xerox Ventures and SIP Global Partners. Seurat’s latest funding has participation from previous investors including Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund, True Ventures, Porsche Automobil Holding SE, and Maniv Mobility bringing total funding for Seurat to $79M. 3dpbm had the opportunity to speak with CEO James De Muth and understand more about the company’s unique proposition for highly scalable metal AM via Area Printing technology and how it plans to lead to more sustainable mass manufacturing of metal parts.
“We now have a prototype machine ready and we can print with material quality exceeding ASTM standards,” De Muth told 3dpbm, “and with that are in the process of engaging with large OEMs to begin to qualify their parts and their materials to map out how we scale into series production at price points that compete with casting”. Seurat has nearly 130 patents, granted and pending and giants like Siemens Energy, Volkswagen, Xerox and Porsche that are either interested or directly invested in its Area Printing technology.
Manufacturing is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to 22 percent of emissions in the US, which excludes the impact of shipping parts around the world. Companies need new solutions that decrease their carbon footprint and create a more resilient supply chain. To advance the world’s net-zero goals, address supply chain challenges, and reshore manufacturing, Seurat’s Area Printing process is powered by 100% renewable energy and will help companies migrate manufacturing from castings and other traditional fabrication methods to achieve high-volume production and reduce harmful environmental pollutants. When operating at full production capacity, Seurat expects to displace 0.15 GT/year of carbon emissions by 2025.
“Seurat’s mission is to make manufacturing better in every way by embracing the agility and design freedom of 3D printing, but not at the same expense,” said James DeMuth, co-founder and CEO of Seurat. “Area Printing decouples resolution and speed, which is the secret sauce to making 3D printing a high-volume process. We are working with the world’s largest manufacturers in migrating their designs to Area Printing to help them gain lead-time, cost, and quality advantages while making a positive environmental impact.”
One way to understand the unique proposition offered by Seurat is to envision its Area Printing technology in a way that is similar to the transition in polymer AM from single-point laser SLA to high-speed processes such as planar, continuous DLP. Only, in metal, this requires the ability to handle a much larger amount of energy (to use a euphemism). “The patterning devices that you need to use need to withstand more power than the sun,” explains De Muth whose background is at the NIF (the National Ignition Facility) at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, one of the most advanced structures for the ignition of commercial nuclear fusion technology.
In polymers, you can use a micromirror but those systems can only handle small quantities of energy. Seurat developed a pattern that could survive a huge amount of energy and that is what the NIF had been working on to concentrate the huge laser power needed to start the fusion reaction. “This is the enabling technology behind Area Printing,” De Muth explains.
Seurat has already secured seven letters of intent to join its commercialization program from the world’s largest automotive, aerospace, energy, consumer electronics, and industrial companies, and expects to launch its first commercial programs this year. The additional funding will be used towards building Seurat’s production-grade system which is targeted to produce parts at $300/kilogram — comparable to parts produced by machining. By 2025, Seurat anticipates lowering manufacturing cost to $150/kilogram, which is comparable to castings. As Seurat grows, its tech will make the $1 trillion metal manufacturing market fully accessible to additive manufacturing.
“Xerox Ventures is investing in high growth startups that usher forth truly transformative business solutions across all industries,” said Tim Chiang, Investment Director at Xerox Ventures. “We believe that the future of how we make products will solve for today’s supply chain and sustainability challenges, and Seurat will help make that future a reality for mass production with their breakthrough advanced manufacturing technology.”
Seurat has grown to 55 employees and is ready to target new segments of manufacturing that are not currently accessible to AM. “Traditional AM players such as aerospace and medical have been doing enormous efforts to qualify current AM technologies and seem content with paying the current price points,” De Muth confirms. “We are looking at segments that are not being serviced. That’s the automotive industry and consumer electronics market and, to a certain extent, the energy market. But we are ready and able to work with companies in any industry – De Muth clarifies adding that they have now received letters of intent from seven large OEMs with more on the way.
Seurat’s business model is to sell parts rather than machines, which makes sense for any new and particularly innovative technology. Seurat’s machines can achieve economies of scale because they are very large and thus also very expensive to own. “We are talking about a laser system powering a machine that is delivering a 1,700 Kg per hour print rate. A factory of six of these would be a third of a gigawatt of power. Such a facility would be able to manufacture 92,000 metric tons of parts per year. These are massive volumes with the potential to bring the price point of part to just $25 per Kg,” De Muth tells us.
Even with these huge energy requirements, De Muth is more certain that Seurat’s technology will be able to dramatically decarbonize manufacturing compared to current casting processes. “By replacing casting for these scales of production we could be looking at 2.5 gigatons of emissions.” As an electrically driven technology, just like all AM, it will all come down to how the energy required will be produced. By using renewables and the latest generation nuclear energy – and, hopefully, one day, nuclear fusion – Seurat has a real opportunity to help reduce the carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.
At 3dpbm we particularly like companies who are not afraid to say they want to compete with – and eventually replace – old and inefficient technologies such as casting and injection molding (even as we do realize that it could take decades and even centuries), rather than pretend AM is always just going to be an alternative to traditional manufactuirng. It’s no surprise that investors have jumped at the chance to be part of this potential revolution. “We are exceptionally excited to join Seurat in its mission to reinvent precision manufacturing at scale,” added Jeffrey Smith, general partner of SIP Global Partners. “We strongly believe that the team, its technology, and its industry partners represent a unique opportunity to create a vastly more efficient and sustainable global manufacturing ecosystem.”
Seurat’s funding will also help the company continue to attract top talent. In 2021, Seurat nearly doubled its headcount and made several strategic hires, including CFO Anthony Di Paola. Di Paola brings more than three decades of financial experience, including leadership roles at FGX International (where he led the company through the IPO process), General Electric, and Thyssen Krupp Elevator. Other critical hires include Joyce Yeung as senior director of marketing, John Rushton as director of market development, Amy Donahue as controller, with several more key electrical, mechanical, optical, and laser engineers.