November 12, 2015
For all the wonders they can produce, the majority of additive manufacturing (AM) systems are pretty simple. The fused deposition modeling (FDM) process pioneered by Stratasys is well enough understood that people have been able to put together 3D printers using Lego, a few off-the-shelf electronic items, and an extruder head. But while plastic-based AM may be a flexible and (reasonably) reliable technology, metal 3D printing is where you’ll find the money.
Israeli startup Xjet is seeking to cash in on metal AM with the development of a new system that prints metal using jetting technology. Currently, jet 3D printers use polymer-based materials to build objects, even allowing multi-material builds. Xjet seeks to leverage that same type of technology to allow for faster builds that could make metal on-demand manufacturing nearly as speedy as that offered by systems using plastic.
Part of what makes FDM or jet processes so fast is their aforementioned simplicity. The systems heat up or jet out what amounts to liquid plastic in patterns determined by CAD. Metal AM has always been a more complex process. One method employs powdered metal and a laser to form a melt pool. Another common approach uses a bonding agent to build objects from metal powder, prior to firing to solidify the part.
Xjet says its system will be unique among metal AM in that its materials will be based on nano technology. Metal will be kept in liquid form using a mix of nanoparticles and a proprietary solution. When called upon to print, the mix will jet forth to build layers of metal, similar to existing polyjet systems.
Because of the nature of the technology, each metal requires its own process to develop,” Xjet CBO Dror Danai told The Times of Israel. “We are starting with stainless steel, and expect the printers and the liquid metal to be on the market in 2016. After that we will work on other metals. Eventually we hope to get to all the major metals used in manufacturing.”
Given that a fair number of Xjet employees previously worked for Objet, including Danai and CEO Hanan Gothait, the idea to leverage jetting technology for a new system is less surprising. The company has received financial support from a number of backers including Landa Ventures and Applied Materials.
Below you’ll find a video about polymer polyjet printing.
Source: The Times of Israel