Inkbit, an MIT spinout that has developed a first-of-its-kind 3D printing platform with vision-based feedback control, has secured a $1.7 research grant from the United States Air Force. As part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract, Inkbit will build three of its additive manufacturing systems, which will ultimately be installed at USAF bases across the United States.
Since having launched the Inkbit Vista just a month ago, Inkbit has caused quite a stir in the AM industry and has already attracted the interest of the U.S. military. The highly automated polymer AM technology, called Vision-Controlled Jetting (VCJ), is based on inkjet deposition technology, integrates closed-loop feedback control, multi-material capabilities and is powered by 3D machine vision and AI. The system is intended to facilitate the transition from prototyping to full-scale production through the combination of advanced computational techniques and a highly scalable configuration.
The three systems destined for USAF use are some of the young company’s first commercial systems. The first to be available will be deployed by the Texas National Guard to facilitate the production of parts. The USAF contract will reportedly also fund the development of technical improvements and software tools to advance Inkbit’s proprietary technology and vision system. This will specifically draw from research conducted by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
“The Texas National Guard is proud to be the leader in adopting additive manufacturing into the National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Alex Goldberg, Chief Innovation Officer, Texas Air National Guard. “We are excited to take the technology developed by agencies like DARPA to initiate expeditionary parts production efforts that will greatly reduce costs across the force.”
“We are thrilled to be awarded this substantial contract from the United States Air Force,” added Davide Marini, co-founder and CEO at Inkbit. “We are at an inflection point in our business where the technology is undoubtedly making a difference in how additive manufacturing is used to create materials that are appropriate for end-use, pass quality assurance standards, and reduce general production costs from legacy systems. We are looking forward to working with the USAF and are excited to make a difference with additive manufacturing.”
Inkbit is also notable for having received substantial funding from a series of high profile investors, including Stratasys, DSM Venturing, Ocado, IMA, 3M and Saint-Gobain. Prior to the USAF contract, the company had raised $15 million in equity investments, and had already received funding from DARPA and NSF. The company’s Inkbit system is available for pre-order.