In March 2018, so just a little over a year ago, Desktop Metal received funding for $65M in an investment round led by Ford Motors. Although that news did not make huge headlines, the deal is now starting to bear fruits as Ford just showed off how they have been using several Desktop Metal Studio systems for prototyping and are now implementing Desktop Metal’s Production system for, well, part production.
In a video released by Desktop Metal reseller Proto3000, Ken Washington, VP Research and Advanced Engineering and CTO at Ford Motor Company, explains how the company has been developing its own factory of the future vision, to integrate virtual, 3D scanning and 3D printing systems. Washington confirms the company has been using the Desktop Metal Studio system for prototypes, jigs, fixtures (even larger size ones) and even some short run production.
In particular, he mentions a 3D printed part on the new F150 that covers an electric plug and was required only in a specific market. By 3D printing the part, Ford was able to cater to the needs of a specific geographic market niche without having to modify the at-scale F150 manufacturing process.
Although Ford does not yet have a Production System on its premises (unlike another yet unnamed Fortune 500 Company), the automaker has been testing the system’s capabilities working in close contact with Desktop Metal. In the video, Ken Washington goes on to explain that Ford is now readying to start producing larger batches leveraging the Production System’s very fast binder jetting process. In doing this it will be going head to head with Volkswagen and its work on integrating HP’s competing Metal Jet technology.
It should also be noted that Ford’s Innovation Center has been promoting some of the most pioneering work on 3D printing for automotive, by integrating innovative composites AM technologies such as Stratasys Composite Demonstrator and Impossible Object’s first CBAM systems.
*This article has been modified on July 10th for content.