Fluent Metal Debuts with Exclusive Liquid Metal 3D Printing Service Out of Stealth

Metal 3D printing startup Fluent Metal has launched out of stealth after raising $5.5 million in venture capital funding.

The new company has been founded to develop and commercialize its drop-on-demand technology. This production-scale, wire-based, liquid metal printing (LMP) process reportedly produces no material waste, making it cheaper, accessible and more sustainable than existing powder-based approaches.

Fluent Metal uses inkjet printheads for a material jetting approach compatible with most metals, including heat-resistant refractory metals, and fabricates parts in a single-step process to minimize variability.

Although additional details on the company’s 3D printing technology are currently limited, Zach Vader, Co-Founder of Vader Systems, is named as one of Fluent Metal’s advisors. Through its MagnetoJet technology, Vader Systems developed the industry’s first liquid metal jet 3D printer at IMTS 2016.

Vader Systems employs a technology that utilizes a ceramic nozzle to melt wire feedstock, crafting a pool of molten metal. The invention then uses an electromagnet to trigger a current that releases material droplets from the nozzle. Upon extrusion, these droplets swiftly cool, solidify, and bond layer over layer, thus forming the required metal part.

In 2019, the Liquid Metal Jetting (LMJ) technology of Vader Systems was procured by the globally renowned print and digital documentation corporation, Xerox. It was later sold off to American metal 3D printer maker ADDiTEC in the year 2023.

One of the notable features of the Fluent Metal team is the industrial experience of its key members, most of whom are alumnus of the Massachusetts-based industrial 3D printer manufacturer, Desktop Metal (DM). The Co-Founder and CEO of the firm, Peter Schmitt, has served as the Chief Designer for DM in the past. In addition to this, Elizabeth Linardos, CFO of the Fluent Metal, has held positions of CFO, a Strategic Advisor, and VP of Finance at DM.

John Hart, the co-founder of both Desktop Metal and a digital manufacturing firm, VulcanForms, serves as the founding advisor for Fluent Metal. Another noted person offering his proficiency to Fluent Metal is Chris Bangle, who once served as the Chief of Design at BMW Group.

Fluent Metal Co-Founder and CEO Peter Schmitt. Photo via Fluent Metal.

Fluent Metal enters the 3D printing market

Fluent Metal’s liquid metal 3D printing drop-on-demand process uses wire feedstock to fabricate metal parts. Multiple materials can be extruded simultaneously in liquid form through inkjet-style 3D printer heads, which then solidify and bond to form layers. Through this process, different metals can be combined to 3D print parts with complex geometries, including fully enclosed voids and internal channels.

The company claims that this 3D printing process produces zero material waste and uses less power than powder bed fusion (PBF) systems, as only the material that is needed is 3D printed. This is said to ensure greater sustainability and operational efficiency. The material changeover process is also advertised as being easy, minimizing 3D printer downtimes and simplifying the setup process.

Fluent Metal’s LMJ 3D printers are designed to function safely on a typical factory floor or prototyping shop, without requiring a clean room or any extra safety provisions. Consequently, the company’s product is touted to lower the bar for entry into metal additive manufacturing, making it more widely accessible.

“Drop-on-demand technology offers an elegant method for fabricating intricate metal components,” Schmitt noted. “Whether for prototype iterations or production runs of a solitary part, Fluent Metal aims to offer clients both tremendous operational flexibility and a wide range of materials. This level of freedom is set to ignite new paths for creativity and innovative problem-solving across multiple industries.”

In preparation for its launch, Fluent Metal secured $3.5 million in investment funding during a venture capital round chaired by E15 Ventures, Pillar VC, and other industry key players. This boosted their total funds raised to $5.5 million.  

Philip Liang, E15’s Managing Partner, expressed the view that commercializing Fluent Metal’s drop-on-demand 3D printing technology would contribute to addressing supply chain and sustainability demands. 

“In the near term, Fluent Metal will spark the imagination of designers, engineers, and technologists to consider how rapid, on-demand production of custom metal parts could transform their capabilities. At scale, this approach will revolutionize the entire footprint and direction of industrial manufacturing,” added Liang.

Fluent Metal researcher developing the company’s liquid metal 3D printing process. Photo via Fluent Metal.

Advancing liquid metal printing

Since the introduction of Vader Systems’ MagnetoJet 3D printers, efforts have been made to further develop and commercialize LMP technology into new markets.

Back in 2022, GROB-WERKE, a Manufacturing system and machine tool developer made an announcement indicating its venture into the 3D printing industry. This was marked by the introduction of its GMP300 Liquid Metal Printing (LMP) system. The system has been developed for the purpose of facilitating quick manufacturing of near-net shape parts from wire feedstock in a way that is economical and effective in terms of materials usage. GROB-WERKE GMP300 Liquid Metal Printing (LMP)

The GMP300 is advertised as providing a higher build-up rate when compared to PBF, along with a superior resolution than Directed Energy Deposition (DED). The LMP 3D printer, built for metalwork applications, features a build volume of 300 x 300 x 300 mm³, three-axis kinematics, a peak axis speed of 30m/min, and a construction chamber which operates under an inert atmosphere.

On a different note, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently published a study. This study illustrates the advantages of using LMP for large-scale construction and for architectural applications. The researchers’ method involves the deposition of molten aluminum onto a bed composed of small glass beads, with the material quickly hardening to create the desired 3D structure.

Original source

Read More: Fluent Metal Debuts with Exclusive Liquid Metal 3D Printing Service Out of Stealth - 3D Printing News