The competition in Binder Jet is heating up. A week ago, Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) announced the two-tier bonded Metal Studio 2 system. By eliminating one of the usual three steps, Desktop Metal could have very efficient and easy-to-use technology. In this article, we pointed out that a company called Rapidia had previously introduced a two-step bonded metal technology. Now ExOne (NASDAQ: XONE) has announced that it will offer Rapidia 3D-Drucker’s ExOne Metal Designlab in the second quarter as part of a strategic partnership with ExOne which has “a right of first refusal for the majority stake in Rapidia”.
ExOne now has printers that range from million dollar industrial equipment for large parts and large-scale manufacturing to smaller, more compact units and an office system. Thanks to the two-step process, there is no longer any need to perform a separate delivery. Losing this step means fewer nasty chemicals and less time to break up. The X1F oven was also developed for use in an office-like environment
The company also explicitly claims that part of the advantage of the Rapidia process is that the ExOne Metal Designlab, unlike competing systems that require chemical or thermal debonding and the thickness of 100% solid parts (without fillings) for a limit successful delivery, this enables you to print any part thickness without filling. Many applications require the strength of solid metal, which limits the use of fillings. This means strong solid parts suitable for end-use applications. “The company is starting with 17-4PH and 316L steels for their canister-based system and says ceramics are on the way. The company is promoting a safer in-office solution that requires no hydrogen, emits comparatively little argon and does not emit any vapors.
Josh Hartner, CEO of ExOne, said of the new system:
“We are very excited to be working with visionary Dan Gelbart and the Rapidia technology team to offer the new ExOne Metal Designlab and the new X1F oven. This technology is a real time-saving innovation that complements the ExOne portfolio. Now researchers, educators and industrial designers can avoid days of waiting and produce high quality parts without the limitations of parts that traditional delivery requires. “
Inventor Dan Gelbart contributed:
“Our goal is to develop a simple, environmentally friendly system that will make the toughest and most complicated parts overnight. Today we are excited to use ExOne’s global marketing and sales team to help customers around the world take advantage of our revolutionary technology. I also expect a lot of innovation when I combine the deep technical knowledge of both companies. Now, users today can 3D print complex parts with no thickness restrictions for solid parts and produce high-strength parts overnight. “
ExOne is clearly chasing desktop metal here. While ExOne has more sales and a much longer history in the Binder Jet, Desktop Metal has stolen the hearts of investors. DM is in a rift on the stock exchange, while ExOne’s stock has long been on the decline until recently. Since January, ExOne has seen tremendous gains itself, quadrupling its share price. ExOne traded between $ 11 and $ 16 for five years, but now it’s skyrocketed. The reason? ExOne’s strong position in Binder Jet is suddenly interesting as Desktop Metal has grown into a $ 7 billion market cap. With Desktop Metal on sale at $ 1.5 billion, ExOne is suddenly looking cheap. In related news, the inventory of Voxeljet (NASDAQ: VJET), which features the same technology, has more than doubled since the start of the year.
By releasing an office-based system, ExOne is taking the battle straight to Desktop Metal. Analysts should conclude that the company is relatively cheap, which will fuel its price hike efforts and possibly its own acquisitions. In the meantime, analysts looking at desktop metal might conclude that ExOne and voxeljet are validating the storage space and see this as more of a reason to believe in desktop metal. A rising tide therefore lifts all boats. This fits in with the projections of SmarTech Analysis, which in its “Bound Metal Additive Manufacturing Market Outlook – Metal Binder and Bound Metal Deposition“Report that the bonded metal prints market will grow twice as fast as the total metal additive manufacturing market over the next decade.
Across the board, however, the metal revenues currently tied up will not be able to sustain inflated expectations for now. Despite increasing interest in the technology, it will take a few months for customers to evaluate and apply bonded metal systems. It will be interesting to see what the OEMs are doing in response: carefully watch their valuations sink, or aggressively seek revenue through acquisitions. Or they could try new increases to move forward. Bound metal as a technology holds great promise, and from what we can see here, Wall Street wants to be at the forefront for companies that deliver on that promise. We’ll need to look at responses from GE, Voxeljet, and HP in the coming weeks to see if they’ll help spark the flames for heat-free 3D printing.