A startup aimed at making metal 3D printing less complex and more accessible to design and manufacturing teams has garnered funding from BMW and other big-name companies as it prepares to emerge from stealth mode.
Desktop Metal, based in Burlington, Mass., recently unveiled that it has raised $45 million in investments, with BMW Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Lowe’s Ventures contributing to the round. The new funding brings the total amount of equity raised by the company to $97 million since its founding in October 2015. Previous investors include NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, GE Ventures, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing leader Stratasys
Desktop Metal plans to use the funding to continue to develop its technology and scale production in anticipation of its official product launch later this year. Until then the company is remaining mum on the specifics of its technology, but not its overall mission, which is “to accelerate the adoption of metal 3D printing in manufacturing through the creation of innovative technology that produces complex parts at scale,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal.
“We believe metal 3D printing will make a profound impact on the way companies manufacture rapid prototypes and volume production across all major industries,” he said.
|The leadership team of startup Desktop Metal, which aims to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing with metal. The team includes four professors from MIT and experts in materials science, software engineering, and robotics. The company plans to emerge from stealth this year with its flagship product, the Desktop Metal system. (Source: BusinessWire)|
BMW declined to comment on the funding or how the two companies may work together in the future. But the company’s manufacturing process could be aided by the ability to fabricate metal parts via a cost-effective metal 3D printing process.
3D printing with polymers, while still evolving in terms of processes and materials, has reached a level of consistency. 3D metal printing is done using a different process and can create small, complex shapes in both aluminum and steel. This makes it well-suited to producing, for example, car parts for manufacturing. Researchers have been focused on fine-tuning and improving the process to make it more cost-effective and simple for manufacturers.
Desktop Metals plans to launch its flagship solution, the Desktop Metal system, this year. The system is aimed at addressing the current challenges of 3D printing with metal, including speed, cost, quality, and convenience, Fulop said. The company already has filed more than 125 patents related to its technology in preparation for its launch.
In addition to Fulop—who has experience in CAD and 3D printing--Desktop Metals leadership team includes experts that span the fields of materials science, robotics, and software. The team also includes four professors from MIT: Ely Sachs, who invented one of the earliest forms of 3D printing in the 1980s; Chris Schuh, chairman of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Yet Ming Chiang, an MIT professor and expert in materials science; and John Hart, an MIT professor who leads the mechanosynthesis lab.
“Just as plastic 3D printing paved the way for rapid prototyping, metal 3D printing will make a profound impact on the way companies both prototype and mass produce parts across all major industries,” Fulop said. “We are fortunate to have the backing of a leading group of strategic investors who support both our vision and our technology.”
Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.