Printing ready-to-use metal objects at your desk is the dream for many engineers and tinkerers. Unfortunately, we're not there yet, but these new Desktop Metal printers, as seen on TechCrunch, get us a lot closer. The Studio Printer is a $49,900 machine that prints metal layer by layer in a way similar to that of a traditional plastic 3D printer, instead of the subtractive method that's more common with metal "printers." Then the plastic binder is removed (by a $9,900 machine) and the part is put into a furnace ($59,900) which sinters the part into the desired density.
As for materials, the printer can use over 200 alloys, and works with the same metal powders that are used for metal injection moulding. The quality of the parts is comparable to injection moulding as well, according to the company.
Desktop Metal claims its system is ten times cheaper than laser-based systems, and that it's easier and safer to use. The furnace (which is a lot larger than the printer) heats the metal with a combination of gas power and microwaves, so that doesn't sound like something I'd like to sit next to, but I'll take Desktop Metal's word for it that this is totally appropriate for an office environment.
In addition to the Studio system, which is sold as a $120,000 bundle, Desktop Metal is also working on a high throughput Production system that can print much faster and possibly rival traditional metal manufacturing for short runs.
Much of this technology sounds similar to Markforged's upcoming Metal X printer, which is supposed to sell for under $99,500 but doesn't include a furnace. Both Metal X and Desktop Metal are scheduled to ship in September.