Desktop Metal sells Aerosint subsidiary to Schaeffler Group

High-precision components and systems manufacturer Schaeffler Group has acquired Belgian recoater system developer Aerosint SA from Massachusetts-based metal 3D printer manufacturer Desktop Metal.

Founded in 2016, Aerosint’s patented Selective Powder Deposition (SDP) technology enables the simultaneous 3D printing of multiple materials, optimizing powder efficiency, cost and part throughput gains. Schaeffler Group hopes that this acquisition will enhance its market position within the additive manufacturing industry. 

Aerosint SA will be renamed to “Schaeffler Aerosint SA” as part of the deal and will be integrated into Schaeffler Group as an additional location for Schaeffler Special Machinery. 

Desktop Metal and Schaeffler Group have not disclosed the financial details of the transaction. 

“Schaeffler Aerosint SA offers the first industrial solution for simultaneous, metallic multi-material printing. This expertise, combined with our high level of industrialization competence and decades of know-how in innovative production technologies, will give us a decisive market advantage,” commented Andreas Schick, Chief Operating Officer at Schaeffler AG. “The acquisition is an important milestone in the industrial use of metal-based additive manufacturing processes in the area of Industry 4.0.” 

Schaeffler has also announced that it will continue its multi-material 3D printing collaboration with Desktop Metal, including in the area of toolless manufacturing technologies. 

“With Schaeffler, we have an international partner with a high level of technology expertise and a clear roadmap for commercializing the SPD technology with laser-based systems,” explained Ric Fulop, Desktop Metal’s Founder and CEO. “We will continue to collaborate on the various possibilities for using this technology in Desktop Metal binder jetting systems in the future.”

Schaeffler technicians working on the company's machinery. Photo via Schaeffler.
Schaeffler technicians working on the company’s machinery. Photo via Schaeffler.

Aerosint’s multi-material 3D printing offering

Aerosint’s proprietary SPD technology is a novel powder re-recoating system, capable of depositing two or more powders into multi-material layers. This deposition process is selective, meaning that specific materials are deposited exactly where they are required, reducing material waste in the process. 

Multiple materials are kept separate during 3D printing, and are deposited by “recoaters.” This process 3D prints components at lateral powder pixel resolutions as high as 300 µm. Compatible with polymers, metals, and ceramics, SPD technology can be integrated into LPBF, SLS, HSS, and binder jetting setups.    

Aerosint was acquired by Desktop Metal back in 2021. At the time, it was hoped that this partnership would advance Desktop Metal’s acquisition-based ‘AM 2.0’ strategy, and unlock new applications for its existing technology.

The company’s recent decision to sell Aerosint follows the termination of Stratasys’ deal to acquire Desktop Metal last month. Following the collapse of this proposed merger, Fulop outlined that Desktop Metal’s plans to “lower operating costs” and “generate revenue” remain on track.   

Schaeffler Special Machinery will now incorporate Aerosint’s SDP technology into its new multi-material 3D printing system, which will be available from 2024. 

“By integrating this key future technology, Schaeffler Special Machinery, as a partner for production excellence, will be able to offer its customers a more diversified portfolio of systems, particularly for the manufacturing and medical technology sectors,” stated Bernd Wollenick, Senior Vice President Schaeffler Special Machinery.

Schaeffler SA's recoater technology. Photo via Schaeffler.
Schaeffler SA’s recoater technology. Photo via Schaeffler.

Developments in Multi-material 3D printing 

Multi-material 3D printing is certainly a growing area within additive manufacturing. Ceramic 3D printing specialists Lithoz recently announced that it will premiere its new CeraFab Multi 2M30 LCM 3D printer during Formnext 2023. Capable of 3D printing two different materials within a single layer, this new multi-material 3D printer is advertised as enabling the production of highly complex multifunctional parts.

Earlier this year, it was announced that scientists from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University have developed a new method that uses near-infrared (NIR) light to 3D print complex structures with multiple materials. 

The research team, led by Dr. Jose Marques-Hueso, modified the stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing process to achieve greater multi-material integration. Targeted toward health and electronics applications, the scientists claimed that this new process allows for the fabrication of multi-material parts at much higher resolutions.  

Elsewhere, scientists from Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore), the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP), and Japanese electronics firm Panasonic recently collaborated to develop a new multi-material electronics 3D printer. This new 3D printer aims to meet market demand for flexible and wearable electronic devices, using multi-wavelength high-power lasers.     

“Our project aims to find a way to 3D print new materials like organic polymers and carbon-based materials like graphene, which has properties that allow them to be printed or coated onto flexible substrates like plastics or fabrics, creating flexible and stretchable circuits,” explained Associate Professor Murukeshan Vadakke, from NTU School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) and SC3DP. 

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Featured image shows Schaeffler technicians working on the company’s machinery. Photo via Schaeffler.