In midst of an impressive stock rally, ExOne (Nasdaq: XONE), a leader and pioneer in industrial sand and metal 3D printers using binder jetting technology, is launching the new ExOne Metal Designlab printer and X1F advanced furnace in an exclusive partnership with Rapidia, a Vancouver, Canada-based technology company founded by Dan Gelbart.
Orders are being accepted starting today, with the system printer and furnace available for delivery in the
second quarter. Under terms of this strategic partnership, ExOne also has acquired a right of first refusal for majority ownership of Rapidia, and Gelbart will now become a technology advisor to ExOne.
“We are delighted to partner with the visionary Dan Gelbart and the Rapidia technology team to offer the new ExOne Metal Designlab and X1F furnace,” said John Hartner, ExOne’s CEO. “This technology is a
true time-saving innovation that complements ExOne’s portfolio. Now, researchers, educators, and industrial designers will be able to bypass days of waiting and produce high-quality parts without the limitations faced by parts that require traditional debinding.”
Gelbart is an electrical engineer who co-founded companies such as Creo, Inc., a laser technology company sold in 2005 to Kodak for $1 billion, and Kardium, a medical device company. He has been issued 135 U.S. patents for inventions ranging from package tracking technology to atrial fibrillation treatment. His popular YouTube series on prototyping is used for instruction by several universities.
Rapidia’s two-step 3D printing technology, developed over several years and first revealed in 2019, was the first to allow water-bound metal and ceramic parts to go directly from a printer into a furnace without a debinding step (interestingly, Desktop Metal also just announced an upgrade of its Studio System to support a two-step process). The efficiency is made possible by HydroFuse, an innovative water-based paste containing metal or ceramic powders, which does not require debinding before final sintering. Two materials are currently offered: 17-4PH and 316L stainless steels, with other metals and ceramics to follow soon.
The ExOne and Rapidia teams are collaborating on system and process enhancements to offer this true Print Today, Parts Tomorrow to the marketplace, with more innovations expected. Rapidia will be able to leverage ExOne’s unique expertise in this segment. At the same time, the new X1F advanced furnace, with about 10 liters of usable volume, will also be offered across ExOne’s binder jet lineup, where it is an ideal complement to the Innovent+ or InnoventPro 3L or 5L printers.
“We set out to develop a simple, environmentally friendly system that creates the toughest, most intricate parts overnight,” added Dan Gelbart, Rapidia Founder. “Today, we’re excited to leverage ExOne’s global marketing and sales team to help customers around the world enjoy the benefits of our revolutionary technology. I also expect a lot of innovation to come from combining the deep technical knowledge of both companies. Now, users can 3D print complex parts today without any thickness limitations for solid parts and produce high-strength parts overnight.”
Most bound metal 3D printing technologies require either three steps (print, debind and sinter) or 3D printing followed by a very slow thermal debinding in the sintering furnace. Either method usually takes 3-5 days to produce a final part and comes with limitations on part thickness, so that the part can properly burn off the polymer binders. Often, these systems limit parts to 5-10 mm (0.2”-0.4”) thickness, which also limits the final strength and applications for the final part. By contrast, the HydroFuse paste developed by Rapidia replaces 98% of the binder with water, which evaporates while printing, enabling true Print Today, Parts Tomorrow technology. This technology also removes the limitation on maximum part thickness. The new ExOne Metal Designlab can print 100% solid metal of any thickness, delivering maximum strength parts suitable for a wide variety of demanding pre-production and end-use applications.