According to a Bloomberg article published earlier this week, industrial 3D printer manufacturer VELO3D is considering going public via a SPAC merger with blank check company Jaws Spitfire Acquisition Corp. The rumored deal hasn’t been confirmed by either party as of yet, and the terms are by no means finalized. However, if the merger completes, the combined entity could be valued at more than $1 billion.
Jaws Spitfire is led by billionaire Barry Stuart Sternlicht as chairman and has 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams on the board of directors. The company raised $345 million in an IPO last December and stated it would focus on “growth-oriented consumer-technology” businesses.
In more concrete news, VELO3D recently announced that Chromalloy, an MRO service provider for the aviation and energy sectors, had invested in VELO’s proprietary Sapphire 3D printer. Chromalloy will install its new metal powder bed fusion system at its manufacturing and repair services facility, where it now expects to repair aging turbine components with improved flexibility and reduced delivery times.
“Chromalloy continues to seek innovative alternatives for our customers to extend the life of their engines and reduce their MRO costs,” says John Green, Vice President of Engineering & Technology at Chromalloy. “The VELO3D additive manufacturing equipment provides a unique, practical solution for our proprietary LifeX customer solutions.”
MRO with the Sapphire 3D printer
VELO’s flagship Sapphire system is powered by the company’s patented SupportFree technology, which can print metal overhang structures without supports. As such, it enables users to produce virtually any geometry without limits. In the context of legacy aerospace components, this eliminates the need to redesign parts with 3D printability in mind, meaning Chromalloy will be able to 3D print a whole host of industrial parts that may have originally been manufactured via casting, welding, and brazing.
Additionally, complex gas turbine combustor parts tend to have very limited aftermarket availability and high replacements costs. Having a Sapphire 3D printer on hand for on-demand production will allow Chromalloy to avoid the associated tooling costs altogether.
Jim Whitton, Director of Innovation Strategy at Chromalloy, adds, “For Chromalloy, 3D printed parts must provide inherent value because they are 3D printed. Otherwise, the printing itself is just a novelty. VELO3D’s unique build capability and material density create high value by reducing post-processing requirements.”
As part of the partnership, VELO is set to qualify Chromalloy’s newly purchased system for 3D printing nickel-based superalloys, including HastelloyX from Haynes International. The high-performance metal combines exceptional oxidation resistance, high temperature stability, and excellent strength, making it a perfect candidate for high-stress applications like gas turbines.
“As an industry leader in the aviation MRO space, Chromalloy is an excellent partner for us,” explains Benny Buller, founder and CEO of VELO3D. “They have the expertise to open up a whole market category of parts. With the flexibility to produce high value, high mix, low-volume parts for aerospace, AM allows the supply chain to be scaled to market- and customer-specific requirements.”
VELO3D and the aerospace sector
Before the Chromalloy partnership, VELO’s Sapphire systems saw extensive use in the aerospace sector. Back in October, aerospace firm Boom Supersonic rolled out its XB-1 aircraft for the first time, which featured 21 mostly engine-related components 3D printed by VELO. The prototype was developed as a proof-of-concept but Boom intends to commission its Mach 2.2 aircraft by 2030.
Last summer, VELO also announced that it had received a $20M order for several of its 3D printers. The order came from an existing unnamed aerospace customer and is still the company’s largest order to date.
Elsewhere, the company has also previously partnered with Honeywell Aerospace to qualify the Sapphire 3D printer for the production of end-use aircraft components. The qualification process was carried out at Honeywell’s headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Featured image shows VELO3D’s Sapphire 3D printer. Photo via VELO3D.