Department of Defense Bestows Multi-Million Dollar Award on Desktop Metal

The award will fund the development of a cost-effective additive manufacturing process to manufacture Cobalt-free hardmetals into complex, net or near-net shaped parts without the use of any tooling.

The award will fund the development of a cost-effective additive manufacturing process to manufacture Cobalt-free hardmetals into complex, net or near-net shaped parts without the use of any tooling.

Desktop Metal has been awarded Phase I of a three-year $2.45 million dollar project from Department of Defense (DoD) to develop an Additive Manufacturing (AM) process capable of mass producing Cobalt-free hardmetals, developed by the U.S. Army. The company’s Production System with Single Pass Jetting (SPJ), an AM technology developed by Desktop Metal, will mass manufacture complex shaped Co-free hardmetal parts without tooling and is expected to lead to the development of a dual-use technology with numerous applications in DoD as well as in the civilian sector. 

This new process has the potential to change the landscape of the carbide hardmetals market which is projected to grow to $24 billion by 2024 and is used in dual-use applications including cutting tools, abrasion and chemical resistant nozzles, parts for the oil and gas sector, parts for the chemical and textile industry, tools used in agriculture and mining, steel industry, consumer goods and sporting goods, parts for off-road transportation, aerospace and defense sector, construction, and in tools and dies for chip-less materials forming. 

The project is issued to Desktop Metal by the U.S. Army Contracting Command—Aberdeen, Research Triangle Park, on behalf of U.S. Army Research Laboratory to the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) Advanced Manufacturing, Materials & Processes (AMMP) Consortium.

Successful investigations by the U.S. Army in developing a novel iron-based nano material as the matrix in WC-based hardmetals, replacing Cobalt, have resulted in the development of novel Co-free WC-(Fe-Ni-Zr)-based hardmetals. In tandem with the creation of this new material for commercial and DoD applications, the ARL has been in search of a cost-effective, high-volume process capable of manufacturing the new Co-free hardmetals into complex, net or near-net shaped parts without the use of any tooling. 

Among the goals and requirements of the three-year project include:

  • development of a feedstock and binder system for novel cobalt-free hardmetal; 
  • using the Desktop Metal SPJ process to print a sufficient quantity of components of at least 200,000 parts in one day from a single machine; and
  • delivery of a cost analysis for scaling up its advanced SPJ binder jet manufacturing technique to successfully manufacture at least 500,000 prototype pieces.

“The novel Co-free hardmetal grade is expected to yield a high strength, high toughness, high hardness, and high wear resistance material,” says Dr. Nicholas Ku, materials engineer, CCDC Army Research Laboratory. “We believe combining this novel material with Desktop Metal’s Single Pass Jetting technology will have major applications not only in the defense sector but also in the commercial sector. Further, we believe this combined method will dramatically improve sustainability, reduce the use of a conflict mineral and provide an environmentally-friendly process to mass produce parts with superior properties.”

Dr. Animesh Bose, vice president of special projects for Desktop Metal, and a Fellow of ASM International and APMI International, will serve as principal investigator of the three-year project. With more than 40 years of experience in the processing of particulate materials, he is the author of over 125 publications in the area of P/M processing of advanced materials, authored and co-authored four books, and inventor or co-inventor of over 12 patents. 

“The success in this project will not only provide the hardmetal community with their eagerly desired Co-free hardmetal solution, but also result in the development of a tool-free processing technique capable of fabricating this class of materials into extremely complex shaped parts at speeds that can rival most other high-volume manufacturing techniques, opening up new horizons in the area of hardmetals and its applications,” says Dr. Bose. 

“This effort exemplifies the ability of NCMS and AMMP to link cutting edge technologies of non-traditional defense contractors with government agencies to meet existing needs and requirements,” says NCMS’ CEO Lisa Strama. “We look forward to the lasting impact this initiative will have within AMMP, the Army, and the broader community driving innovative Co-free hardmetal solutions across the services and industry at large.”

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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