Desktop Metal, a secretive startup stocked with MIT professors that promises to produce 3-D printed metal parts for manufacturers, has raised $45 million from the venture capital arms of Alphabet Inc., BMW, and Lowe’s.
Desktop Metal, based in Burlington, has now racked up a total of $97 million since it was founded in October 2015. The 80-person company plans to begin selling its first product later this year, chief executive Ric Fulop said Monday.
Details, however, are still hard to come by. Desktop Metal said it is working on a device that will produce metal objects faster and cheaper than metal 3-D printers now on the market. But Fulop wouldn’t discuss how Desktop Metal’s product would work, other than to say it does not use lasers, and didn’t discuss its price.
Current generations of metal 3-D printers typically use lasers to melt powdered metals that harden into solid, three-dimensional objects. Desktop Metal hopes that its version will make the machines much less expensive than industrial machines that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The same system that you buy today is really the same one that was available 10 years ago,” he said. “We’re introducing something totally novel.”
Manufacturers and product designers of all stripes have used 3-D printers for years, including machines that make metal and plastic parts. But falling component costs and technological innovations in recent years have made the devices less expensive, smaller, and easier to use.
Money has rushed into the sector as a result. Last year, General Electric Co. paid about $600 million for a controlling stake in German metal 3-D printing company Concept Laser.
In a news release, BMW i Ventures partner Uwe Higgen said Desktop Metal’s device could help automotive companies produce prototypes and finished parts more quickly, “shaping the way cars will be imagined, designed and manufactured.”
There are other startups aiming to make a cheaper metal 3-D printer, including Aurora Labs of Australia and MatterFab, a Seattle company that counts GE among its investors.Curt Woodward can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @curtwoodward.