Fast Cycle: Mantle explains how its metal 3D printing technology will accelerate product development

For a company emerging from its stealth status with what it believes to be a disruptive technology, there is no greater endorsement than seeing investors put their hands in their pockets to support this first foray into the market. Except maybe one of those investors is former Apple inventor Tony Fadell and Tony Fadell says he wishes he had something coat brings to the table while working on the Nest, iPod, and iPhone projects.

Understandably, this has boosted the company and reinforced its belief that its TrueShape technology will cut manufacturing development cycles by months and enable customers to get to market much faster.

“Anyone who really understands the product development process, what it takes to get from the finished design and then slowly bring everything to a standstill, as you have weeks if not months when it’s set up and you’re trying to get it for manufacturing is ready before you can get it to your customers is excited about what we do, ”begins Mantle CEO Ted Sorom. “Tony is an oversized character who understands that. That’s why he has invested in us and is involved in the company because he understands that the speed and improvement in product quality in manufacturing have a huge impact on the products we see around us. “

TrueShape combines an additive manufacturing technique of extrusion with subtractive finishing in a hybrid process. Mantle’s flowable metal paste material is printed into the shape of the part using a precise positioning system and extrusion print head before the applied layers are automatically shaped by high speed cutting to improve surface finish and detail. The parts are then heated in a high-temperature furnace to a temperature just below the melting point before they are fused to form tight, solid components.

Lead time and cycle time arouse their interest. If you can cut lead times by weeks or months, that’s a game changer.

Mantle says his process gives the part greater precision than many of its competitors before sintering, with shrinkage rates closer to 9-11% compared to 17-20% and able to produce an “extremely smooth” two-micron RA. to achieve surface refinement without pearl blasting or external refinement. Parts are usually ready to use as soon as they have been cleaned with soap and water. This in particular, the elimination of laborious post-processing steps and the fast delivery of tool components, has aroused the interest of such well-known companies.

“Not only are we able to reduce the cost of introducing new products, but more importantly, we are able to accelerate product launches,” says Sorom. “There the big OEMs we work with are really excited because people like NASA, Apple, Tony Fadell have money to improve their products, but they have no way to accelerate this cycle” today and around the clock -to-Market to be drastically shortened. “

Mantle currently offers H13 and P2X materials (a P20-like material with improved corrosion and abrasion resistance) with an initial focus on high hardness tool steels with additional materials relevant to the tool industry in the pipeline are. On the software side, Mantle’s offering can handle both the additive and subtractive components of the process automatically, meaning that users don’t have to switch between separate software packages to prepare their CAD / CAM files. Mantle believes it is offering a technology that covers the “toughest, most time-consuming and expensive part of mold making” and can do so much faster than any other company.

Although Mantle operates clandestinely, it has already started working with multiple manufacturers to test these claims. Among them is the leading cosmetics brand, L’Oreal, who helped Mantle validate the technology by printing precision molds. When Mantle launched earlier this year, Blake Soeters, Director of Product Conception at L’Oreal, was quoted as saying that TrueShape had “provided the dimensional tolerances and surface finish required” and that the company was delighted with the “positive impact it had this technology will have on our capabilities “. Bring new products to market quickly. ‘

“The lead time and cycle time pique their interest,” said Paul DiLaura, Mantle’s chief commercial officer. “If you can cut lead times by weeks or months, that’s a critical factor for you. If they have between six weeks and two weeks to make a unit mold or a prototype tool or a production tool, they can compress it and bring it to market, for example around Christmas time. That has a big impact. then [there’s the] Cycle time. They are dealing with such high volumes that if they can reduce the time it takes to make the part and the cycle through the molding process, it will have a huge impact on their business. “

Another early Mantle partner is an unnamed home appliance manufacturer who used Mantle’s TrueShape technology to replace a plastic injection molded component that helped make a dishwasher part. TrueShape made the part using P2X material with a dimensional tolerance of 0.001 inches and in a timeframe of 46 hours (22 for printing, 24 for sintering). This was a saving of 71% compared to the weeks-long lead time of the conventional process. In addition, no additional surface finishing is said to have been necessary to achieve 2 µm Ra, and the tool was used in a full run of 200,000 pieces. After the insert found only minor wear at “expected points”, the insert was reinstalled for another production run of 200,000 pieces. To further increase the time savings, the household appliance manufacturer also achieved a cost saving of 67% and is aiming to produce more than 500,000 units with the tool, which would correspond to the expected service life of conventionally manufactured indexable inserts.

A global medical device manufacturer used TrueShape to produce cavity and core tool inserts from tool steel within a week: two and a half days to print the parts and five and a half days to prepare the mold and insert. Compared to a traditional lead time of seven weeks, this means a time saving of more than 80%. Again with the P2X material, TrueShape provided tight dimensional tolerances within 0.001 inches and a smooth matte finish of 1.6 µm Ra ‘similar to parts after EDM’. Ejector pin holes and tap mounting holes were added prior to installation in the molding press. After installation in the molding machine, the parts were manufactured with Radel polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) at a mold temperature of 315 ° C and with acetal at a mold temperature of 199 ° C, with the resulting parts meeting all optical and dimensional requirements.

In addition to consumer product and medical device manufacturers, Mantle is also targeting automotive and electronics OEMs, while tool makers and contractors are other obvious candidates for TrueShape. The company has indicated that it will have more information about the “intimate use” of TrueShape by “large OEMs” later this year as it leverages its $ 30 million raised capital and seeks to accomplish its mission.

“While other people in the additive industry focus on these high-end uses that no ordinary consumer will ever see the result of – I mean, how many missiles have you been standing next to lately or how many jet engines have you gotten yourself to lately viewed? – I look around and there is injection molded consumer electronics, packaging and products all around me, ”concludes Sorom. “And this is a technology that additive manufacturing of prototypes and niche applications will have a huge impact on how the products we use every day are made and brought to market.”

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