Additive manufacturing is rapidly gaining popularity around the world, but when it comes to the number of additive manufacturing companies, I'm afraid there is nowhere more than in the United States, where it originated. From 1987, when Chuck Hull first introduced stereolithography, to 1990, when the first metal additive manufacturing technologies emerged, additive manufacturing has maintained a steady growth in the United States over the years, and the U.S. has consistently topped the list of the world's largest 3D printer installation base.
In this article, a roundup of metal 3D printer manufacturers located primarily in the United States is presented.
3D Systems was one of the first manufacturers of 3D printers in the world. Today, the company offers the DMP Factory 500 solution, the DMP Flex 350 and DMP Flex 350 Dual, the DMP Flex 200 and the entry-level metal printer DMP Flex 100, all of which use direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology. one of the main differences between 3D printers is size, with the largest printer has a build volume of 500 x 500 x 500 mm, while the smallest is only 100 x 100 x 90 mm, but the features also differ between the machines. Notably, in the factory system, 3D Systems offers integrated powder management, high throughput and repeatability, and a stable, low-oxygen environment for better part quality. All machines use 3D Systems' own 3DXpert software, an all-in-one system that streamlines the workflow from design to print.
If you've been aware of the additive manufacturing space for a while, then you've heard of Desktop Metal, a company founded in 2015 with a mission to make metal 3D printing more accessible, and which has now quickly risen from a startup to one of the industry's leading companies. Currently, Desktop Metal offers four different self-developed systems: Fiber, Studio System, Shop System and Production System. while the Studio, Shop and Production systems are all designed for metal 3D printing, Fiber, as its name as its name suggests, is an FDM machine suitable for composite printing, i.e. continuous carbon and glass fiber ribbons. the Studio System is also an extruder, one of DM's first printers to enter the market. It is a two-part system that integrates printing and sintering, using bound metal rods. It was proposed as a metal, desktop printer that could be safely used in the office.
Desktop Metal also offers two non-extrusion machines, the Shop and Production systems that use metal binder jetting. the Shop system is designed to bring binder jetting technology to the machine shop, while the Production system is designed to 3D print metal parts on a large scale. As expected from binder jetting, both machines have high-quality, accurate parts that can be printed cheaply and quickly. While technically Desktop Metal only sells these four machines, it actually has a larger product portfolio, which is something we need to mention. This is because last year it acquired a number of 3D printing companies that have access to different technologies. For example, it acquired EnvisionTEC, the original inventor of DLP 3D printing, which allowed it to enter the polymer market. DM also made waves when it announced the acquisition of its rival ExOne, a move that strengthened its position in the adhesive jetting market.
Another American company involved in metal 3D printing, is ExOne, which is still selling its own metal and sand adhesive jetting printers, despite the fact that it was acquired by its main competitor Desktop Metal last year, as mentioned above. ExOne currently offers five printers capable of transforming more than 10 types of mono-alloy metals into high-density metal parts. Sizes vary, with the smallest, the Innovent+, having a manufacturing case of 6.3 x 2.5 x 2.5 inches (160 x 65 x 65 mm), while the largest, the X1 160Pro, measures 31.5 x 19.7 x 15.8 inches (800 x 500 x 400 mm). The other three available machines, the X1 25Pro, InnoventPro 3L and M-Flex, had manufacturing volumes in between, with two of them averaging 15.75 x 9.84 x 9.84 inches (400 x 250 x 250mm). For a company that has been working in the field of adhesive spraying for more than 20 years, it is to be expected that these machines are very popular with those who have experience in adhesive spraying.
The next American manufacturer of metal 3D printers is California-based FormAlloy, which specializes in Directed Energy Deposition (DED) printers. The company has two different series of DED printers, the X and L series. Both feature closed-loop control, variable wavelength lasers and FormAlloy PF and ADF powder feeders for gradient or bimetallic structures. Each machine has a FormAlloy AX metal deposition head for build volumes up to 5 axes of motion, with proven high powder efficiency and built-in quick release capabilities. In terms of build volume, a variety of sizes are available including 200x200x200mm, 500x500x500mm, 1x1x1m and custom sizes.
GE Additive is the additive manufacturing business branch of General Electric (GE), a leading American multinational conglomerate, which is known as a world leader in 3D design and manufacturing of metals. The company consists of two additive manufacturing brands, Concept Laser and Arcam EBM, as well as AP&C, a supplier of additive manufacturing powders. As you might have guessed, the company focuses on powder-based metal additive manufacturing technologies. Through ArcamEBM, GE Additive Materials offers five EBM machines, the Q10plus, Spectra H, SpectraL, Q20plus and A2X. Certain machines are designed for specific industries; for example, the Q10plus is specifically optimized for mass production of orthopedic implants, while the Q20plus is designed for the cost-effective aerospace component production. All five machines create dimensionally accurate parts quickly and efficiently, the company notes.
Through Concept Laser, GEAdditive also offers 3D printers that use direct metal laser melting (DMLM), a technology based on laser powder bed fusion. Currently, the companies have the M2 5 Series, M Line, X Line2000R and Mlab Series, which offer different build envelopes, even within a single machine, to produce complex parts quickly and efficiently. Thanks to the excellent part quality and the availability and repeatability of the machines, these machines can even be used in extremely demanding industries, such as aerospace and medical.
This next manufacturer is a bit different, as it is not yet technically available. This manufacturer is HP, a company best known in the additive field for their patented multi-jet fusion technology, but they also currently have a metal process, HP Metal Injection, in the works. It is already possible to order metal parts from HP, and the company claims that their binder jetting process has increased user productivity by a factor of 50, allowing for the production of high volume parts and large parts due to build sizes of 430 x 320 x 200 mm (16.9 x 12.6 x 7.9 inches), and when it comes to metal binder jetting, it is usually at a reduced cost while maintaining high precision. HP announced late last year that the printer will be commercially available in 2022, and one can already be reserved on HP's website.
Markforged was founded in 2013 and is probably best known for their composite 3D printers, including continuous fibers. But the company also has a metal additive manufacturing solution, aptly named the MetalX system. metal X is a metal FFF system that uses bound powder filaments and is compatible with materials including 17-4 PH stainless steel, copper, H13 tool steel, Inconel 625 and A2 and D2 tool steels. The choice to use extrusion technology is also not surprising; manufacturers pride themselves on safe to use, hassle-free machines, and using FFF rather than other metal technologies can significantly reduce costs. metal X has a build volume of 300 x 220 x 180mm (11.8 x 8.7 x 7.1 inches) and features an enclosed heated chamber and a heated, vacuum-sealed print bed with automatic leveling feature to provide better conditions for metallic materials. In addition, there are two nozzles that allow the use of both metallic and release materials.
Another American manufacturer of metal 3D printers is New Mexico-based Optomec. originally founded in 1997, the company has released products in a wide range of markets such as electronics, energy, life sciences, aerospace and defense. Today, they claim to enable high-volume additive manufacturing thanks to their AM solutions.Optomec's metal printers use LENS Directed Energy Deposition (DED) technology, a process that uses high-powered lasers (400W to 3kW) to melt powdered metals into fully dense parts. According to the company, the process is performed in a sealed chamber that is purged with argon gas to keep oxygen and moisture levels below 10 parts per million and prevent oxidation. Accuracy, speed and less environmental impact are some of the key benefits of the technology, and Optomec notes that using LENS can make printing 10 times faster and five times less expensive. A number of different sizes of metal AM solutions are currently available, CS 250, CS 600, CS 800, CS 1500, MTS 500, MTS 860 and LPE.
This Chicago-based company (Sciaky) is one of the oldest, as they were founded in 1939 as a supplier of advanced welding systems. In fact, they have such a long history that during World War II they were a major supplier of resistance welding systems used to build warplanes for the U.S. Army. And since 2009, they have also offered metal additive manufacturing solutions. That is, their process originally named Electron Beam Direct Manufacturing was introduced in 2009, and then became what is now known as Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing. Because of their metal parts and solutions, the company has worked with some of the leaders in the defense and aerospace sectors, including the Department of Defense, Lockheed Martin, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Airbus and more.
The company notes that their Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) is a one-of-a-kind metal 3D printing that allows users to produce high-quality, large-scale metal structures with very little material waste. The company offers five machines, the EBAM 300, EBAM 200, EBAM 140, EBAM 110 and EBAM 40. And with at least the EBAM 110 industrial metal 3D printer, users can create parts up to 19′ in length faster and cheaper than many traditional metal processes. In terms of the technology used, EBAM is similar to DED, where an electron beam gun deposits metal in the system's vacuum chamber through a wire feeder. sciaky claims that the process can reduce lead times and material costs by up to 80%, making it the fastest metal 3D printing process in the world.
When Benny Buller founded Velo3D, he sought to address what he saw as a fundamental flaw that limited the speed of AM adoption. That is, he noticed that before being able to integrate the technology, engineers would have to learn not only a new manufacturing process, but also a completely new design process, namely additive design for manufacturing or, more commonly, DfAM. Buller decided to create a company that would "allow design to inform manufacturing, not the other way around. This is done with hardware (Sapphire®) and front-end and back-end software (Flow™ and Assure™), making it easier to adopt AM while still benefiting from its many advantages.
The US-based company has three metal 3D printers, the Sapphire® printer (for low volume and & development, 315mm Ø x 400mm z), the Sapphire® 1Mz printer (for large parts, 315mm Ø x 1000mm z) and the Sapphire® XC printer (for high volume and production scale parts, 600mm Ø x 550mmz). All printers are equipped with end-to-end manufacturing solutions that allow engineers to manufacture even critical parts. All three machines use the same software, run the same processes and use the same materials to ensure repeatable consistency. The printers use a metal powder bed fusion process with non-contact recoaters, per-layer mapping, and more to ensure a uniform powder bed. Among other features, the quality and performance of the parts certainly benefit from the intelligent fusion of the underlying manufacturing process. These printers have applications in many fields, including aerospace, oil and gas, and more.
Located in State College, Pennsylvania and operating out of Penn State's Innovation Park, Xact Metal is determined to offer the benefits of high-quality metal 3D printing at the best possible price, a concept that is even reflected in their motto - "Don't be tied to traditional, expensive technology". While their machines use a powder bed process, which is not always known as the most affordable metal 3D printing technology, the company is committed to combining the best of powder bed fusion with innovative new technologies to lower prices and make them available to a wider audience. The company also states on their website: We are committed to supporting the next generation of innovative manufacturing solutions powered by metal 3D printing, demonstrating their commitment to metal 3D printing and innovation. Currently, the manufacturer offers the XM200G series, XM200C and XM300C devices. These printers have different applications, with the XM200G series designed to meet high-performance use cases in manufacturing and R&D, while the XM200C is suitable for universities, labs and small to medium-sized businesses, and the XM300C is suitable for applications requiring prototyping, tooling capabilities or low-volume casting. All three machines use DMLS and are considered capable of producing highly complex, high quality parts.
Most people think of Xerox mainly as a printer and scanning solution provider in the daily life of the public, but did you know that this American company also produces metal 3D printers? After acquiring the startup VaderSystems in 2020, the company launched their first 3D printer, the ElemX, in 2021. this system is a bit different from many others, as it actually uses a proprietary liquid metal printing technology. Essentially, instead of the powder used in many metal 3D processes, Xerox's system uses a metal wire that is fed into a tank and heated to over 800°C. Once the material melts, the machine uses a magnetic field to project droplets, similar to the idea of material jetting. The company notes that users can avoid potentially dangerous and toxic powders, which is one of the main benefits of using its process. The printing system is already making waves in the industry, as it has been adopted by the Naval Postgraduate School in California to help develop 3D printing applications for the U.S. Navy.