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Freemelt raises $1.6 million in investment round for open-source EBM 3D printer

Freemelt, a Sweden-based metal 3D printing company, has announced the completion of a SEK 15M ($1.6M) capital investment round led by venture capital firm Industrifonden

The funding round also included Freemelt’s existing investors, and will be used by the company to fuel the next phase of its growth. Freemelt aims to “drive the metal 3D printing revolution forward” using its open-source electron beam melting (EBM) 3D printing technology. 

Close-up on the Freemelt One electron gun. Photo via Freemelt.
Close-up on the Freemelt One electron gun. Photo via Freemelt.

Open-source EBM 3D printing

Founded in 2017, Freemelt has developed an EBM 3D printer, titled Freemelt One, intended for research and development into metal materials for additive manufacturing. A key feature of the Freemelt One EBM 3D printer is the small amount of powder that is reportedly required for the system to operate. By designing the system so that it needs little material investment, Freemelt seeks to make the testing of different metal powders affordable and fast for users. 

The company’s website states that most future applications for 3D printing require materials that are yet to be developed and made compatible with the technology. Freemelt claims that commercial metal 3D printers are only able to use a few select materials, limiting the possibilities for 3D printing to reach new applications. 

With its EBM system, however, Freemelt aims to develop 3D printing for future materials using a collaborative and open-source approach: “The ecosystem will promote the cooperation between research and industry. This will enable metal 3D printing to grow much faster than the individual partners can manage on their own, and keep the development momentum going by combining their resources.”

Our software is truly open-source […] The user can adapt and evolve the code, and share it within the community, to accelerate the development of tomorrow’s materials.” 

Freemelt’s open-source EBM 3D printer will allow users to inspect, validate, alter and develop the software code themselves. An open-source community will encourage collaboration between users, where they’ll be able to ask for and provide help, develop new features, share ideas in scripts and software updates, and create new materials without software restrictions. 

Metal powder for the Freemelt One 3D printer. Photo via Freemelt.

Continuous development for EBM

Electron Beam Melting, or EBM, is a 3D printing process allowing for the fabrication of metal parts using an energy source capable of melting metal powders layer-by-layer to produce complex, industrial-grade parts. It differs to SLS in that its energy derives from a beam of electrons, rather than photons. 

Sweden-based 3D printer manufacturer Arcam was the original company to build an EBM system. The firm was also part of Industrifonden’s investment portfolio from 1999 to 2015. Since then, Arcam has been acquired by American conglomerate GE as part of a $1.4 billion deal

As well as Freemelt however, various other companies are entering the market alongside Arcam with EBM systems. Recently, Wayland Additive, a metal 3D printing start-up based in West Yorkshire, UK, raised £3 million in funding to develop an EBM 3D printer for aerospace and medical industries.

Furthermore, Ruselectronics, a Russian holding corporation and a subsidiary of state-owned Rostec, has begun developing an EBM 3D printer for aerospace applications. The research and development work will be carried out by Toriy Scientific Production Association (НПП Торий).

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