SSI partners with ExOne to achieve “complex geometries in volume production”

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Powder metallurgy specialist SSI Sintered Specialities has partnered with binder jet 3D printer manufacturer ExOne to ramp up its production capabilities.

As part of the firms’ collaboration, SSI Sintered Specialties will install ExOne’s X1 160Pro and InnoventPro 3L systems at its HQ in Wisconsin next year, where they’re set to be used within extensive binder jet material, automation and process R&D, while also manufacturing complex parts for the company’s clientele at scale.  

“The addition of metal binder jetting to SSI’s technology portfolio was the natural next step in providing our customers with the most advanced technology on the market to produce complex geometries in volume production,” said Paul Hauck, COO of SSI Sintered Specialties. “We are thrilled to be working with ExOne to offer our customers the future of metal 3D printing.” 

ExOne’s X1 160Pro and InnoventPro 3L 3D printers.
SSI Sintered Specialties is planning to install ExOne’s X1 160Pro and InnoventPro 3L 3D printers in H1 2022. Image via ExOne.

SSI’s metal powder expertise 

Founded in 1982, SSI Sintered Specialties is known as a manufacturer of custom-tooled components using its suite of metal 3D printing, injection molding and machining systems. The company has offices in China, Korea, Germany, Japan and Brazil, and currently ships more than 100 million parts per year, thus it continues to invest in its production facilities in order to satisfy its growing client demand.  

Alongside its core production offering, SSI Sintered Specialities also markets material formulation services, in which it works with customers to develop custom alloys that meet their application-specific requirements. In the past, the service has been used to create everything from tungsten-copper steel to iron-tungsten-copper-carbon alloys, with the density to enable their use within counterweighting. 

Application-wise, the firm’s technologies are often deployed to produce valves, tooling, pumps and filters, for clients in the medical, food processing and automotive sectors. In the case of the latter, the company even markets prefab fuel system, wing mirror and drivetrain components, that offer users weight, stability and part consolidation benefits compared to traditionally-produced alternatives. 

SSI Sintered Specialties' Janesville headquarters.
SSI Sintered Specialties’ Janesville headquarters. Photo via SSI Sintered Specialties.

A binder jetting collaboration 

Slated for delivery in H1 2022, ExOne’s machines are expected to be installed at SSI Sintered Specialties’ sprawling 250,000 sq. ft base. Given that it is home to the world’s largest installed capacity of high-temperature sintering furnaces, the complex already has the post-processing set up in place to support high-volume metal binder jetting, placing the firm well to achieve its scaling ambitions.

Once there, the 220 x 125 x 100 mm build area 160Pro will form part of a fully-automated cell with continuous sintering, for high-throughput part production. The InnoventPro, meanwhile, is set to be used for both material and application R&D, helping ExOne to add to the portfolio of 12 metals, 5 composites and 4 ceramics it has already qualified for the machine. 

For SSI Sintered Specialties, the installations should enable it to produce components of a greater complexity and size than before, in higher volumes from a variety of metals, while for ExOne, the sales mean it has now sold X1 160Pros to food, automotive, consumer goods and energy firms, where factory acceptance tests are also understood to be underway.

“ExOne is delighted to have our cutting-edge binder jet technology adopted by such an experienced powder metallurgy partner,” said John Hartner, CEO of ExOne. “We look forward to driving binder jetting to full production for a wide range of customers who will now be able to unlock new value with innovative new designs that were once impossible or too expensive to produce.”

An AMClad vacuum forming tool.
ExOne continues to invest in broadening its technology portfolio, buying Freshmade 3D earlier this year. Photo via ExOne.

ExOne’s turbulent 2021 

Thus far, ExOne’s year has been eventful to say the least, with the company being bought over by Desktop Metal for $575 million, and continuing to seek out new applications for its technologies. After acquiring Freshmade 3D’s tooling technology in April 2021, the firm went on to launch its own X1 Tooling range, complete with injection molding, forming, composite layups and metal casting products. 

Working with Tennessee-based start-up Maxxwell Motors, the company has also helped develop a new 3D printed copper e-winding design for an axial flux electric motor. Using binder jetting to produce the revamped device was said to have saved Maxxwell a significant amount of time and money, while ultimately delivering improved EV performance.

Elsewhere, ExOne has continued to work with German research institute Fraunhofer IFAM to formulate new materials as well, announcing the successful development of its CleanFuse metal binder in September 2021. Following their initial success, the two organizations now intend to work on a further version of CleanFuse, that’s capable of processing reactive materials such as aluminum and titanium.

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Featured image shows SSI Sintered Specialties’ Janesville headquarters. Photo via SSI Sintered Specialties.