On a high level, ExCast is 3D printing company ExOne's (NASDAQ:XONE) solution to managing complicated casting jobs, in which parts are created by pouring molten metal into 3D-printed molds, on behalf of the company's clients. Through ExCast, ExOne essentially becomes a project manager, dealing with all of the various steps involved with designing, 3D printing, machining, and certifying complex 3D-printed casted parts.

In terms of opportunity, ExOne's 3D printers and mold-creating services position the company to capitalize on what appears to be a multibillion-dollar opportunity for 3D-printed castings. Because 3D-printed castings require no tooling, they invite levels of complexity often impossible to replicate with traditional mold-making methods. Consequently, ExCast improves upon the manufacturing supply chain and offers the potential to make better parts and products.

However, in order for customers to fully benefit from the potential that ExCast offers, there often have to be changes to the manufacturing workflow. In other words, although ExCast sounds like an exciting opportunity for ExOne's business long term, considering the company is only expected to generate about $60 million in revenue this year, ExCast as an initiative isn't free from challenges.

In the following video, 3D printing specialist Steve Heller interviews David Burns, ExOne's global head of sales, about some of the greatest challenges currently facing ExCast.

A full transcript follows the video.

Steve Heller: Of course, no opportunity is free from challenges. I know you touched on it a little bit. What are some of the biggest challenges you see associated with ExCast at this point?

David Burns: The use of 3D printing to make molds for castings allows castings to be designed differently, but also implies a different manufacturing stream.

The implication of how castings even get poured may be different if you're using a 3D-printed pattern because for whatever reason -- because we have perhaps integrated cores, because our integrated channels are thinner for the passage of molten metal, therefore the heating and chilling elements you need in a pattern may be different...

You need foundries that are adaptive for the idea behind what 3D printing is about and how we can make castings using the 3D printing process.

What we know is that when it works we can achieve high casting quality, in many cases add casting features you cannot get without 3D printing -- undercuts, thin wall sections -- these are things you can't achieve with traditional methods, and we absolutely can get it with 3D printing.

The price to be paid, then, is how do we integrate downstream from the 3D printing process to ensure that we have a seamless transition of that pattern process to the foundry, and ultimately to machining and end use?

It's a lot of work. You need good partnership and good collaboration between people, and of course that's an investment in time and effort on everybody's part.