Sharebot Announces Entry-Level Metal 3D Printer
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on March 28, 2019 |

Italy’s Sharebot is a relatively small company, but it has a wide range of products and a large global footprint. With the firm’s portfolio including just about every type of plastic 3D printing process, it was only a matter of time before Sharebot moved into metal. At the Mecspe manufacturing trade show in Parma this week, the company showcased its latest system, the metalONE 3D printer.

The metalONE 3D printer represents Sharebot’s first entry into the world of metal 3D printing. (Image courtesy of Sharebot.)
The metalONE 3D printer represents Sharebot’s first entry into the world of metal 3D printing. (Image courtesy of Sharebot.)

The metalONE is a relatively small and comparatively inexpensive selective laser melting (SLM) 3D printer. The system measures 74 cm x 63 cm x 100 cm (29 in x 25 in x 39 in) and weighs 150kg (330 lb), which is fairly petite when lined up against most metal 3D printers. The build volume is just 65 mm x 65 mm x 100 mm (2.6 in x 2.6 in x 3.9 in).

While this build volume may not be huge, Sharebot CEO Arturo Donghi told engineering.com that it’s the perfect size for universities and research and development labs to test new materials. “It’s completely open. A user can modify all of the parameters of the process in order to test their material or other R&D needs,” Donghi said.

Donghi describes the printer as easy to use, which is necessary for a system with open access to processing parameters. (Image courtesy of Sharebot.)
Donghi describes the printer as easy to use, which is necessary for a system with open access to processing parameters. (Image courtesy of Sharebot.)

The openness of the system is fairly unique in the world of metal 3D printing, with most manufacturers maintaining the process controls in a figurative black box locked away from the user. However, in order to understand how a newly developed material behaves during the printing procedure and what the optimal settings are, it’s necessary to access these controls.

While the openness and size may be quite different from what’s common in the rest of the industry, the machine setup is not. The metalONE is equipped with a 1070nm 200W laser and a nitrogen generator, with three filters for creating an inert atmosphere free of metal particles. Other features include a 12-inch touchscreen, an integrated webcam and a LAN connection for remote printing.

Donghi explained that the new SLM system grew out of the company’s efforts in selective laser sintering (SLS) that began four years ago. “After we sold more than 50 SLS printers around the world, we started research into a new 3D printer that uses metal powder a year ago,” Donghi said.

He believes that it will serve much of the same customer base as the SnowWhite SLS printers do. “SnowWhite is installed all over the world: the U.S., England, Germany, Italy, China, Australia, etc. We think that the metalONE has the same concept as SnowWhite: it’s easy to use, completely open, prints very fast, and you can use just a small amount of powder to produce a test print,” he explained.“This is exactly the same as with SnowWhite.”

The product fits in well alongside Sharebot’s numerous other systems, which include fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography and digital light projection 3D printers in a range of small to large sizes. The company’s goal with this portfolio, according to Donghi, is to supply small- and medium-sized businesses.

Sharebot is currently offering the metalONE as a beta system to initial customers, who Donghi hopes will develop new materials for the technology. So far, the machine can print with 316L stainless steel, but metals like cobalt-chrome and aluminum are on the horizon. More information on 3D printing metals can be found here.

Beta customers should receive their systems between June and July, with a full release expected in time for the formnext trade show this November. With that in mind, the price of the final system has not yet been established, but Donghi says that it will be less than EUR€100,000 (USD$112,000).

This places the metalONE in the same price category as other entry-level metal 3D printers, like Xact Metal’s XM200 and the ORLAS Creator from OR Laser,both of which perform SLM for roughly $100,000 ($120,000 and $82,000, respectively).

Before these systems came on the market, labs could purchase Concept Laser’s research-focused Mlab cusing machine with a build volume of 2 in x 2 in x 3.2 in (50 mm x 50 mm x 80 mm) for about $191,000 or the EOS M 100, with a build volume of Ø3.9 in x 3.7 in (Ø100 mm x 95 mm) for about $233,000.

These systems are all ideal for testing materials or part designs before scaling up to larger SLM machines, but there are other entry-level metal printers on the market that use different 3D printing processes. The ADDiTEC’s μPrinter, for instance, is the only directed energy deposition system available for less than $100,000 that we are aware of. Markforged has released the Metal X, which uses an FDM-style process to produce green parts that are then sintered in an oven. Desktop Metalis in the process of releasing a technology that is very similar to Metal X.

All of this means that the world of entry-level metal 3D printing is populating quickly, which in turn means that the cost of the technology is dropping and, therefore, opening up the possibility for widespread adoption. However, the machines are still small, meaning that widespread adoption for manufacturing-scale metal 3D printing has not yet arrived. Perhaps that will change next year, when Donghi anticipates the possibility that Sharebot could release a metalTWO 3D printer.

To learn more about Sharebot, visit the company website.


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