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Desktop Metal: Scaling Additive Manufacturing

Desktop Metal: Scaling Additive Manufacturing

Desktop Metal: Scaling Additive Manufacturing

Vladyslav Horoshevych/iStock via Getty Images Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM ) is a provider of additive manufacturing solutions that is differentiated by its focus on mass production use cases. Desktop Metal is trying to establish its business in a difficult macro environment, and hence its financials currently look poor. The business has potential if the company’s single pass jetting becomes widely adopted in mass production use cases though. Market Additive manufacturing is a type of manufacturing where products are made by progressively depositing material in layers. Additive manufacturing enables: Design flexibility Mass customization Greater part complexity Low volume parts and faster product cycles Assemblies to be consolidated into a single part Reduced waste Additive manufacturing can also support shorter lead times and lower inventory levels. Because of these properties additive manufacturing has primarily been used for prototyping, but manufacturers are now beginning to fully utilize these advantages to create more complex products and customized products. Despite its promise, the market has been somewhat held back by size and speed constraints, as well as material properties. Newer additive manufacturing technologies are focused on advancing speed, accuracy, material variety and build volume. Desktop Metal is a pioneer in the area of printing speed, and hence is focused on mass production applications. The shift from prototyping to mass production of end use parts is expected to drive rapid growth in additive manufacturing. Reshoring of manufacturing and a greater desire for supply chain flexibility could also support growth. Figure 1: Additive Manufacturing Market Size (source: Desktop Metal) Desktop Metal believes it has a large market opportunity, but probably still needs to do more to establish the viability of its technology at scale. Its opportunity extends beyond mass production of metal parts though, with Desktop Metal also offering photopolymer solutions. Dental applications are a particular focus area for Desktop Metal’s DLP technology. Stratasys ( SSYS ) believes that dental could be a 50 billion USD opportunity for additive manufacturing, with dentures alone providing a 5 billion USD market in the US. Table 1: Desktop Metal TAM (source: Created by author using data from Desktop Metal) The market is split across printers, services, materials and parts and is currently quite fragmented due in large part to the diversity of technologies. Desktop Metal is primarily exposed to the printer and material segments and hopes to drive consolidation through acquisitions. Figure 2: Breakdown of Additive Manufacturing Market (source: Desktop Metal) Binder Jet 3D Printing Binder Jet 3D Printing is a cost-effective and low-energy manufacturing method that supports a wide range of materials. It is generally considered the best suited additive manufacturing method for mass production. During binder jet printing a liquid binding agent is selectively deposited onto a thin layer of powder particles and the part progressively printed in layers. Parts need to either be cured (if they are plastic) or sintered (if they are metal) at the end of the process to yield a useful part. Figure 3: Binder Jet 3D Printing (source: ExOne) While binder jetting offers a number of advantages, it is not a panacea. Metal parts produced using binder jetting generally have inferior mechanical properties to parts produced using SLM. Figure 4: Comparison of Binder Jet Printing with Casting and Machining (source: Desktop Metal) Desktop Metal utilizes a process they refer to as single pass jetting. Normal binder jetting performs the powder deposition, binder deposition and binder drying steps sequentially. This becomes time consuming when a part has many layers. Single pass jetting performs all binder jetting processes for each layer in a single step. By performing these steps concurrently, each layer is completed in as little as 3 seconds , dramatically accelerating the printing process. Single-pass jetting is up to 100x faster than laser powder bed fusion and significantly faster than conventional binder jetting. This increases throughput and reduces costs relative to other additive manufacturing methods. The cost can be as low as one twentieth the cost of legacy additive manufacturing technologies. Figure 5: Illustrative Breakeven Cost Analysis (source: Desktop Metal) Desktop Metal Desktop Metal offers a range of additive manufacturing solutions, with the core of its portfolio based around binder jetting and DLP technology. The company’s focus is really on enabling mass production using binder jetting though. In support of this, Desktop Metal has developed advanced sintering and software capabilities, combined with a differentiated materials platform. Figure 6: Desktop Metal’s Product Portfolio (source: Desktop Metal) Sintering is an important part of metal additive manufacturing using binder jetting. Desktop Metal offers both hardware […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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