The Elements of Innovation Discovered

Fluent Metal liquid AM drops on the scene

Metal Tech News - March 20, 2024

Metal 3D printing startup raises $5.5 million in first-round funding to advance its metal dropper printing technology.

Using no lasers or powder, additive manufacturing company Fluent Metal Inc. emerged on the metal 3D printing scene with a $5.5 million financing to bring its unique drop-on-demand approach to the world.

"Drop-on-demand technology is an elegant approach to create complex metal components," said Fluent Metal CEO Peter Schmitt. "Whether it's prototype iterations of an idea or production runs of a single part, Fluent Metal will provide customers with great operational and material flexibility. This freedom will unlock new creativity and problem solving abilities across industries."

Instead of using prepared powders or energy-intensive lasers used in most metal 3D printers, Fluent is taking a different approach.

Compatible with most metals, including refractories (metals highly resistant to heat and wear), its technology enables the creation of parts in a single-step process – liquid metal printing. With already molten metal, Fluent's drop-in approach provides an energy-efficient alternative to laser printing while using less material and producing no waste for a far more sustainable technology.

Launching out of nowhere with an additional $3.2 million in venture capital funding, led by E15 VC – a geographically agnostic venture capital firm based out of Hong Kong – with participation from Pillar VC, a Boston-based firm that supports early-stage companies, and industry philanthropists – Fluent raised roughly $5.5 million to continue developing its production-grade liquid metal printing which allows for unmatched scalability and process tunability.

Fluent Metal Inc.

A graphic designed by Fluent Metal that shows the rough principle behind its drop-on-demand metal 3D printing technique.

While a full breakdown of its technology still appears shrouded in mystery, Fluent Metal's drop-on-demand approach is being described as:

Functional – using wire feed as the starting material and producing no waste, Fluent Metal enables true multi-metal printing. The company says this includes the potential for high-value metals to be intricately combined, creating properties never before possible. Additionally, complex shapes such as fully enclosed voids and internal channels are possible due to the inkjet-like printhead and parallel throughput.

Operationally efficient – Fluent printers are designed to operate as safely as possible on a typical manufacturing floor or even a prototype shop, without the need for clean rooms or other expensive safety measures. This allows material changeover to be easy as plug-n-play, reducing setup efforts and allowing for higher machine uptimes.

Sustainability – as mentioned above, the process produces no waste and uses less energy than powder-based technologies.

"As the manufacturing industry evolves in response to the changing needs of global supply chains and sustainability demands, we need novel approaches to drive creativity and expand our collective conception about what's possible," said E15 Managing Partner Philip Liang. "In the near term, Fluent Metal will spark the imagination of designers, engineers, and technologists to consider how rapid, on-demand production of custom metal parts could transform their capabilities. At scale, this approach will revolutionize the entire footprint and direction of industrial manufacturing."

Fluent Metal is backed by industry veterans from Desktop Metal, Vulcan Forms, and the MIT Media Lab.


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