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Desktop Metal reveals how its 3D printers rapidly churn out metal objects



Today, Desktop Metal revealed pricing and other details for its 3D printers, which can make objects out of hundreds of different alloys including steel, aluminum, titanium and copper. In terms of quality, the parts produced by Desktop Metal systems compare to injection-molded items, says the startup’s CEO and cofounder Ric Fulop.

While metal 3D printers have been around for decades, they’ve been limited in terms of materials, speed and accessibility. That’s, in part, because metals have such a high melting point. It’s not as easy to shape them as it is to shape plastics, for example.

Desktop Metal calls its core technology “microwave enhanced sintering.” The company’s printers put down layers of metal and ceramic powders that are mixed in a soft polymer. The cartridges and alloys that work with the printers are made by Desktop Metal and other major providers in additive manufacturing. Once a mixed-media item is printed, it goes into a furnace where it is rapidly cooked. Heat burns off the polymer. Gases are filtered by charcoal.

Meanwhile, the metal is fused together but at a temperature that won’t make it melt and lose its shape. Wherever ceramic was laid down in a printed design, metal remains separated and doesn’t fuse. The pieces created by Desktop Metal machines can be separated by hand.