A marine burner atomizer

Metal 3D Printing

If you were an athlete who ran races for a living, imagine what it would be like to be able to run four times faster than your toughest competitors. Then imagine being 100 times faster. That kind of speed is just one of the advantages — real, not imagined — of Desktop Metal, a Koch partner that makes it possible to print complex, three-dimensional parts and shapes out of stainless steel and other metals.

“Compared to our closest competition, we’re four or five times faster,” said Jonah Myerberg, a co-founder of Desktop Metal. “And compared to more common laser-based printing systems, we’re 100 times faster. That kind of speed enables us to produce prototype parts for our customers in hours or days rather than weeks or months.”

Although Desktop Metal did not invent metal printing, Myerberg pointed out that he and his partners saw an opportunity because the original technology was never fast enough to be cost-effective. “We transformed that aspect of additive manufacturing.” Where other units might need a full day to make a dozen copies of a common part, such as an impeller, a Desktop Metal unit can produce 560 in the same amount of time. “That brings the cost per unit way down and makes the time to market much faster.”

Desktop metals studio system

Desktop Metal's Studio System, originally launched in 2018, prints high volumes of metal objects in a minimal amount of time. Studio System 2.0 was launched in 2020 with upgrades co-developed by a KES materials scientist.

In mid-2018, Koch Disruptive Technology’s Koch Labs capability partnered with John Zink Hamworthy (a Koch Engineered Solutions company) and Georgia-Pacific to “test drive” Desktop Metal’s new state-of-the-art Studio System. These sleek units are ideal for making low volume or one-off parts cost-effectively. They are simple to install and require much less floor space than traditional units. “You can easily set them up in an office or lab with minimal utility connections,” Myerberg said.

A marine burner atomizer

A marine burner atomizer (close-up, left, after installation, right) made using 3D printing techniques. It cannot be manufactured using traditional machining methods.

John Zink Hamworthy installed a Studio System at its Tulsa, Oklahoma, technical center, while Georgia-Pacific tested one at its Collaboration and Support Center in Atlanta. The Tulsa site used it to make one-of-a-kind prototypes and customized parts for combustion units. GP’s CSC facility chose to test the creation of “just-in-time” spare parts for its various operations sites. Both test sites enjoyed solid success.

“Additive manufacturing — what the world calls 3D printing — still seems new and exciting to most people,” said David Dotson, president of Koch Engineered Solutions. “But even something as new as this is not exempt from transformation. The team at Desktop Metal is very closely aligned with Koch in that regard. We both know that change is inevitable, and we want to drive that change as much as possible.”