XJet Gets Funded to 3D Print Most Accurate Metal Parts to Date
Roopinder Tara posted on March 18, 2016 |

A very promising 3D printing company that seemed to have dropped from our radar has popped back up in a big way. XJet announced that it has raised $25 million through an investment round led by Autodesk and Israeli-Chinese private equity fund Catalyst CEL. XJet also revealed more detail about its 3D printing process.

Israel’s XJet—based in the self-described “City of Science and Culture” of Rehovot—has developed a novel metal 3D printing technology that could have a profound impact on the way metal objects are created, particularly in the metal additive manufacturing space.

A rendering of the XJet NanoParticle Jetting system depositing patented nanoparticle inks onto a substrate. (All images courtesy ofXJet.)

A rendering of the XJet NanoParticle Jetting system depositing patented nanoparticle inks onto a substrate. (All images courtesy ofXJet.)

XJet’s technology is completely unique from other forms of metal 3D printing, setting itself apart from all other printer manufacturers in a variety of ways.The two dominant forms of metal 3D printing either involve a concentrated heat source, such as a laser beam, or the fusing of metal parts with a binder material, which is subsequently burned out. XJet, on the other hand, takes a never-before-implemented inkjetting approach, depositing drops of metal nanoparticle inks onto a substrate to build a metal object layer by layer.

NanoParticle Jetting is a process by which a patented liquid suspension containing metal nanoparticles is ejected from standard piezoelectric printheads before applying temperatures of up to 550°F/300°C.These high temperatures cause the liquid encompassing these particles, dubbed a liquid “jacket” by XJet, to evaporate and the metal to fuse together. Supports are then removed, and the object is put through “an easy sintering process.”


As the liquid “jacket” evaporates with heat, the metal nanoparticles fuse together, achieving layer thicknesses as fine as 2 microns.
As the liquid “jacket” evaporates with heat, the metal nanoparticles fuse together, achieving layer thicknesses as fine as 2 microns.

XJet claims that NanoParticle Jetting offers a number of important advantages over rival metal 3D printing technologies.The most obvious is the claimed resolution capable with the process. XJet states in the promo video embedded below that NanoParticle Jetting can achieve layer thicknesses under 2 microns, which is practically unheard of in metal additive manufacturing.For a comparison, two of the most widely used metal 3D printing technologies, direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and electron beam melting (EBM), are capable of 20 and 50 microns, respectively. The only other metal printing technology to reach such fine levels of detail that we are aware of is micro laser sintering from 3D MicroPrint (a joint company formed by EOS and 3D-Micromac), which has claimed to achieve layer thicknesses of less than or equal to 5 microns.


A 3D printed part from XJet’s NanoParticle Jetting process.

A 3D printed part from XJet’s NanoParticle Jetting process.

Another benefit is speed, with XJet stating that their process works at five times the rate of laser metal 3D printers (roughly 2 to 8 mm3/s on EOS machines, depending on the material used). They also suggest a higher level of precision than their competitors, as well as part densities rivaling traditional manufacturing without the same porosity seen with other techniques. No vacuum or potentially dangerous gasses, like argon, are used, making for a safer work environment. And, because NanoParticle Jetting doesn’t rely on a powder bed, as with DMLS, only the material required to print the object and its support structures is necessary, reducing waste and, therefore, cost.

Without a powder bed to support each print layer, however, these structures are required for some complex shapes and must be removed after printing is complete, which XJet claims can be done “simply and with almost no manual intervention.” The sintering process also adds an additional step, but given the fine level of detail already possible with NanoParticle Jetting, it sounds as though a significant amount of postprocessing may not be required, which isn’t the case with DMLS and EBM.

From left to right, the XJet management team: Udi Bloch, COO; Nir Ackerman, CFO;DoronAvramov, VP R&D;DrorDanai, chief brand officer; and Hanan Gothait, founder and CEO.
From left to right, the XJet management team: Udi Bloch, COO; Nir Ackerman, CFO;DoronAvramov, VP R&D;DrorDanai, chief brand officer; and Hanan Gothait, founder and CEO.

Prior to founding XJet in 2005, President and CEO Hanan Gothait founded Objet, known for its polymer jetting 3D printing technology relying on UV-curable resins. XJet has picked up $60 million between 2007 and 2011, as well as $22 million in 2014, which helped the transition from a solar panel–focused company to a 3D printing company. XJet is now home to 50 R&D specialists and has over 50 patents registered or pending. This latest round of $25 million will see the firm bring its process into markets worldwide, including China. If you happen to be attending AMUG in St. Louis this April, you may be among the first to see this technology displayed in public.

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