Based in Wuerzburg, Germany, Headmade Materials not only offers patented sinter-based cold metal fusion (CMF) technology to its customers, but also encourages them to consider new ways to design and manufacture with 3D printing technology—while still falling back on conventional methods as needed. Its innovative and low-cost printing processes for metal have earned the company the attention of users seeking support in design, part manufacturing, and process integration, as the well as the recent reward of €1.9 million in funding from the Industrial Technologies Fund of btov Partners.
The hefty sum will be put toward “scaling up” its technology, according to a recent press release sent to 3DPrint.com. The company will also be developing customer and marketing services further. As a spinoff of Würzburg-based polymer research institute SKZ, the Headmade Materials team has been working on its cold metal fusion technology for five years. As it partners with btov, it is expected that research and development will progress more rapidly.
“We see the Cold Metal Fusion technology as a very viable approach for serial production due to the high cost efficiency of the process. The combination of mechanical part properties known from metal powder injection molding (MIM) process and considerable process advantages, such as reduced safety requirements due to easier powder handling and higher green part stability, is also significant here,” says Robert Gallenberger, partner of the btov Industrial Technologies Fund.
Cold metal fusion technology began at the hands of founders Christian Fischer and Christian Staudigel in 2015 while both were still employed at a research institute. Sharing an interest in machine building, their goal was to bring serial production to 3D printing—eliminating limitations, lack of affordability, and creating better designs for a range of applications.
The process is different from other 3D printing techniques as it combines metal sintering with SLS printing (usually reserved for manufacturing of 3D printing plastics). The key is in the plastic binder mixed into metal powder, allowing for more versatile use; for example, with cold metal fusion, metal parts can be printed on laser sintering systems meant for plastics like the EOS Formiga P110 or the Sintratec S2. The components are then placed in a debinder and then furnace for final sintering.
Headmade Materials claims that other benefits of CMF include the ability to use a greater range of “mature machine technology,” requiring no build plates or support structures. Users can count on savings in time and money, with increased productivity. Feedstock left un-used can easily be reused, and because of superior green part strength, both automated depowdering solutions and rough production environments are acceptable. Perhaps more importantly, because the process can be performed using existing SLS machines, owners of those systems can begin making metal parts without investing in new metal 3D printers, even the new generation of bound metal printing processes, like those from Desktop Metal.
“When it comes to the economical series production of complex metal parts, there is no way around 3D printing with the cold metal fusion technology,” says the Headmade Materials team in their white paper, “Cold Metal Fusion / Metal SLS Technology.”
The Headmade Materials team plans to 3D print series with up to 100,000 parts per year. Currently, it offers its sinter-based 3D printing processes to customers, using optimized feedstocks and services whether in helping with design and production, in-house production, or ready-to-use final parts.
Overall, 3D printing with metal continues to increase in popularity for industrial users, from taking advantage of micro-gravity and 3D printing in space with the potential for large structures, to experimenting with new materials, and even furthering electronics with liquid alloys.
[Source: EU-Startups / Images: Headmade Materials]