In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller and Motley Fool industrials analyst Blake Bos discuss metal 3-D printer maker Arcam (NASDAQOTH:AMAVF), and how it's differentiated from the competition. In particular, Arcam uses a proprietary metal 3-D printing technology called electron beam melting, or EBM, which gives it a significant speed advantage over competing direct metal laser sintering, or DMLS, technology. The drawback of Arcam's EBM technology is that it cannot achieve the same level of detail as DMLS, making it unfit for highly intricate applications. Going forward, potential Arcam investors should await new EBM product announcements to see whether it addresses these drawbacks.
A full transcript follows the video.
Blake Bos: Hey Fools, it's Blake and Steve here. We're here in Detroit, Michigan, at the RAPID Manufacturing Show. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers put this on. It's the biggest show for 3-D printing in North America.
Here we're at the Arcam booth, Steve. For investors that maybe aren't so familiar with Arcam, the company, what do they do? What kind of printer technology are they using? What markets are they focused on? Can you give investors an idea?
Steve Heller: Absolutely. Arcam is based out of Sweden. Their ticker is AMAVF in the States. They are a metal 3-D printing company focused on titanium, Inconel, aluminum, other metals. They use a technology called electron beam melting, and this technology is a competitor to direct metal laser sintering.
They have their own patents; the technology actually works a little bit differently. With DMLS, or direct metal laser sintering, you have a laser, you're melting powder -- metal -- layer by layer, and you're building...
Bos: Yes, and it shines off of a mirror.
Heller: Right, the mirror is doing all the intricacies of the part. It's moving around -- it's mechanical.
Bos: Kind of like the old-school TVs, that use the mirror to shine the light; the projection TVs.
Heller: Exactly, yes. In that sort of sense, but on a much more highly engineered level. EBM uses an electron beam. It's a vacuum chamber, and what makes EBM so unique -- right now, the resolution isn't as good. It's not necessarily as accurate.
Bos: "Resolution" means quality?
Heller: How detailed you can get. Right now, it's behind DMLS, but it's a much newer technology.
What's really interesting about it, though, you can take one EBM beam -- electron beam -- and split it with electromagnetism into 50 multi-beams; so, at one time you could have 50 beams shining on the print bed, so it is dramatically faster than any DMLS product on the market. The reason being, DMLS can only use one or two lasers at a time, and there are heat issues with that.
Since you're only using the same one beam, and you're splitting it up using electromagnets, you have a much bigger advantage long term. The technology could become more scalable for direct manufacturing in larger applications, larger runs.
Bos: We were just talking to the Arcam sales rep, and he was saying that speed is the primary advantage for the Arcam mediums.
Heller: Exactly. Right now, it's speed, and hopefully in the future, it's also precision. Between the two, as the technology advances and they become finer tuned, it should be a much more direct threat to DMLS, and maybe companies like GE and others will begin to consider adopting this technology in their manufacturing line.
GE is working on 3-D printing, with DMLS, their LEAP engine fuel nozzles. In the future, maybe generations from now, when Arcam gets their next-generation products, or maybe a couple generations -- we're still early in the cycle -- is what's important for investors to understand there.
This is also not guaranteed, but if they could pull it off and get a better resolution at the higher speed...
Bos: It opens new markets.
Heller: It's going to be a more economical choice for manufacturers.
Bos: Definitely. Investors, going forward looking at Arcam, it sounds like we should probably keep an eye on the new printer offerings that Arcam does come out with, and how that development progresses, new material developments, and higher resolutions in their printers.
Bos: Thanks, Fools! Thanks for watching. Steve and Blake, signing out.