December 28, 2015
Printing in metals may have just taken a major step forward with the announcement of what is being hailed as the first direct metal 3D printer that uses inkjet-style application technology. Israel-based Xjet announced plans for the printer in November.
The printer could potentially make metal printing more affordable and accessible.
“Using our inkjet technology we will be able to make customized metal manufacturing affordable for even small companies,” the company’s CBO Dror Danai said in an interview with The Times of Israel.
Key to their success might be company CEO Hanan Gothait, who previously helped lead Objet (now part of Stratasys), which was an innovator in polymer 3D printing, patenting the Polyjet technology. The company also worked on development of an inkjet-based deposition system for solar cell production.
“The layered inkjet printing technology that is used to make medical devices, dental implants, single-run samples for manufacturing, and much more is all based on plastic,” said Danai, another Objet veteran. “In the same way that Objet helped create an industry for 3D printing using plastic materials, we intend to create an industry that will allow the same kind of custom printing for metal.”
The new metal printer is based on Nano Metal Jetting technology that uses liquid metals instead of the powders typically used in metal printing today. The liquid metals are nanoparticles of metal mixed with a special liquid.
Xjet currently has 62 employees, many of them formerly with Objet, and the majority of them engineers or materials specialists. The company expects to release the printer (and liquid stainless steel printing materials) in 2016. Additional metals will follow.