3D Printing Industry spoke to Duncan McCallum CEO, Digital Alloys Inc. about the latest company to 3D print metal.

We are using a fundamentally different, unique process for printing metal,” says McCallum.

Based in Burlington, MA, Digital Alloys is a spin-out from NVBots. Regular readers will be familiar with the company as they’ve been working on a metal 3D printing system since 2014. As we reported early last year, the details of that technology were very much under wraps.

Focusing on FFF/FDM 3D printing, NVBots decided to commercialize the metal 3D printing aspect of their business separately, and in January 2017 Digital Alloys was formed. Since then, Digital Alloys has raised $5 million in Series A funding from backers including Kholsa Ventures.

Kholsa Ventures, headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. was founded “in 2004 by Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems,” and have “over four billion dollars under managementaccording to their website.

feature NVBOTS NVLABS multi-metal 3D printing

Image from 2016 article about NVLabs metal research.

How Digital Alloys 3D print metal

I asked Duncan McCallum for more information about the 3D printing technology used in the Digital Alloy product. McCallum said, “We use standard, commodity metal wire to feed the Digital Alloys printer. Over time, we will support printing with any metal that is available in wire form – offering the broadest range of materials in the industry.

This choice of metal wire, as opposed to metal powders, should dramatically reduce the cost of 3D printing in metal. Furthermore, metal powders require careful handling to avoid health and safety issues.

'A magnified image of a metal powder particle, produced by our laboratory's high-pressure gas atomization technique. ' SEM image from: Ames Laboratory

A magnified image of a metal powder particle, produced by Ames Laboratory high-pressure gas atomization technique. SEM image from: Ames Laboratory

3D Printing Industry has reported on a number of different approaches to metal 3D printing with non-powder bed methods recently. For example, in January Markforged announced their Metal X 3D printer, and we recently interviewed the founder of the Virtual Foundry about their metal 3D printing material.

In the case of the Virtual Foundry it is the material, rather than the machine, that permits more affordable 3D printing with metal.

3D printing multiple metals

McCallum tells me about use cases for the newly announced Digital Alloy 3D printer,

When costs are reduced by 10-20x, a much wider variety of applications become available. In addition, our systems have the unique ability to mix multiple metals in a solid part, enabling customers to push the limits of design and create new products with optimized thermal, electrical, magnetic, and mechanical properties.

Today’s news is likely to whet the appetite of many in the 3D printing community, however everyone is going to have to wait a little longer. “Our system will ship within a year. Pricing details have not yet been announced,” says McCallum.

The CEO adds that Digital Alloys’ 3D printer has three particular advantages so, “customers will be able to print parts at 5-10% the cost of competing systems.” The advantages are, “a much lower machine cost, more than 10x increase in print speeds and the use of commodity input materials (wire).

Digital Alloys views aerospace, automotive, general industrial, information technology and medical as a few of the market segments they plan to address.

3D Printing Industry understand patents are pending over the technology used by Digital Alloys, and further information about their metal 3D printing plans is available on the company’s website.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the technology and the company soon. For now, let us know your thoughts in the comments below and subscribe to our newsletter to receive all the latest news about 3D printing metal.

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Featured image shows a sculpture inspired by digital design. Photo by James Jones Sculpture.

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