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Binder Jetting: The pain and the promise

The evolving story of metal Binder Jetting: The pain and the promise Binder Jetting – at once the new kid on the block yet one of the industry's earliest processes – holds the promise of taking metal Additive Manufacturing into the territory of true high-volume production. Yet progress towards this goal appears to be struggling, with machine sales lower than many hoped and two new 'big players' appearing to be holding back on full commercialisation. In this report, Joseph Kowen considers the development of this industry to date, the obstacles facing its growth, and, of course, the recent announcement of two of Binder Jetting's biggest rivals coming together in the most unexpected acquisition.

We’ve all heard a lot about metal Binder Jetting. It’s been a hot topic in the world of Additive Manufacturing and we’ve seen numerous developments in this space. In the past four to five years, we have witnessed a continuous drumbeat of news about how Binder Jetting is ‘coming’ or how it is ‘here’, and how promising metal Binder Jetting (we’ll call it metal BJT from now on) is for a new age in metal AM, to make less expensive parts in industries that dreamed that they, too, could be blessed by the benefits of AM. Ambitious new players have declared their intentions to embrace the promise of metal BJT. New systems have been announced. Funding and investments have flowed into the space with breathtaking speed and impressive scope. And then, while this article was in preparation, the Earth shook for a moment, as two of the five practitioners and suppliers of commercial metal BJT systems announced that they were joining forces: Desktop Metal is to pay a total value of $575 million for ExOne. This acquisition, which still awaits

Vol. 15 No. 3 © 2021 Inovar Communications Ltd

regulatory approval and closing, was an unexpected seismic shift in the relatively sedate and incremental world of metal AM. Perhaps 'earthshattering' would be going too far; I am of the school that values conservatism and pragmatism in assessing industry developments

– but the Desktop Metal – ExOne deal is the AM industry’s equivalent of, say, BMW merging with Daimler. Or perhaps Manchester United combining with Manchester City – OK, I exaggerate slightly, but I hope readers will get the point: this is big.

Fig. 1 Binder Jetting was one of the earliest metal AM technologies to be commercialised, yet today it lags behind Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion in terms of machines sold (Courtesy ExOne)

September 2021 PIM International

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