In the second half of 2022, one of the most intriguing developments in the additive manufacturing (AM) sector has been the growing number of companies announcing their membership in the ColdMetalFusion (CMF) Alliance. This development just got all the more intriguing, with the partnership’s recent unveiling of its first end-to-end production platforms: the CMF JobShop and CMF LabSystem.
Started in Germany surrounding the CMF printing technique developed by startup Headmade Materials, the CMF Alliance has recently added around a dozen new corporate participants. In simplest terms, the advantage of CMF is its facilitation of low-cost metal AM by allowing users to print with metal powders on polymer powder bed fusion printers. The link that ties together the association of different companies, headquartered in southeast Asia and western Europe, is that they’re all involved in manufacturing hardware for different phases of the CMF printing process. It hasn’t been clear until now, however, precisely what form CMF Alliance’s joint operations would take.
These two initial launches answer that question in striking fashion. Notably, the JobShop and LabSystem are not standalone platforms, but are each comprised of three systems: a laser powder bed fusion (PBF) machine, a debinding station, and a sintering furnace. The JobShop revolves around Farsoon’s HT252P laser PBF machine, while the LabSystem relies on Sintratec’s S2. Both packages come with debinding stations produced by LÖMI, and sintering furnaces made by Carbolite Gero. All of the systems are existing polymer machines made by the companies mentioned, which have been optimized for CMF printing.
The CMF JobShop, intended for service bureaus and machine shops, is compatible with M2 tool steel, two different grades of stainless steel, and Ti64, an alloy of titanium, aluminum, and vanadium. The CMF LabSystem is designed for rapid prototyping. In addition to being compatible with 17-4PH stainless and M2 tool steel (just like the JobShop), the LabSystem also works with H13 tool steel, as well as Inconel 625, which is widely used for metal AM.
It is an impressive technological achievement, to create production units that incorporate versions of existing products from multiple different companies. Other companies in the AM sector seem to be successfully deploying this same business model. For instance, in the robotic arm/pellet extrusion space, KUKA and Ai Build have collaborated this year on similar product offerings.
CMF Alliance has also achieved something very impressive economically, in terms of its potential to allow the association to take over market-share in metal AM. All of the participating original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have greatly enhanced the potential growth of their market presence in metals, mainly just by getting on-board with one another concerning how to best utilize their excess polymer hardware production capacity.
There is still no one production process that any industry in the metal AM customer-base seems entirely satisfied with. Given that, as the demand for printed metal parts scales up, there will be ample territory to fight over for companies that represent competing metal AM techniques. The CMF Alliance has been shrewd in getting out ahead of the competition, though it has also now telegraphed a path that a potential rival association could take. If it is successful, it’s quite likely to spawn imitators.
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Images courtesy of ColdMetalFusion Alliance
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