“This team developed a product that solves a very technologically complex problem in about 18 months,” said Dayna Grayson, a tech investor with NEA. “We re-upped our investment seeing their ability to execute, and because we believe there’s a very large, addressable market here.”
Last year, the entire additive manufacturing industry produced $5.1 billion in revenue, with just about $1 billion attributed to metal 3-D printing, according to the Wohlers Report 2016. But additive manufacturing is expected to grow across the board, Grayson said, especially in aerospace and automotive.
Desktop Metal’s machines work by binding metal and ceramic powders into a soft polymer. They extrude layers of this mixture to make an object, which is then placed into a furnace for what the company calls “microwave-enhanced sintering.” The polymer burns off there, and the metal fuses together without losing its shape. Ceramic layers keep metal parts from fusing wherever a designer wanted to separate pieces.
The printed objects are ready to use out of the furnace, no retooling required, Fulop said. They are comparable to cast metal parts in terms of structural integrity, he said.