ProMetal Announces Rapid Metal Production Cost/Quality Breakthroughs

Irwin, Pennsylvania -- May 13, 2003 -- ProMetal, a division of Extrude Hone Corporation, announced today the ability for its customers to rapidly generate near-net shape metal parts and tools for as little as $30 per pound, with production quality material properties. The $30 figure includes all costs associated with a complete production operation: machine and furnace capital depreciation, labor, overhead, utilities, maintenance, and materials.

"Rapid production, rather than mere prototyping, is the ProMetal focus", said Rick Dove, ProMetal's President. In a paper presented May 13th at SME's Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing conference titled "Rapid Production Economics, Mass Customization, and Agile Manufacturing", Dove states: "In order to provide mass customization capability, the prime production metrics must be satisfied, and these are cost, cycle time, and quality. " In breakthrough terms, the $30 per pound figure compares with an estimated $150 per pound for the closest alternative rapid metal technology. The cost breakthrough is due to ProMetal's unique raster-scan ink-jet-like technology known as 3D printing. It is relatively inexpensive to run a large number of jets in parallel, which accounts for a high metal production rate.

The paper details the cost model for the company's largest machine, the R10, which has a build box of 40" by 20" by 10". The model assumes the machine is employed in a true production environment: is operated on average 20 hours per day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year, and converts 33% of the steel powder in the build box into production parts or tools – at the rate of 9 pounds per hour for the 64-jet print head version. Two beta R10s were sold last year with production units scheduled to ship in Q3 this year.

ProMetal's smaller machine, the R2, with a build box of 8" by 8" by 6" can produce parts and tools for as little as $60 per pound operating under similar conditions. Two beta R2's were sold last year with production units shipping this quarter. The R2, with a 64-jet print head, generates 0.9 pounds of parts and tools per hour.

Production quality material is the other major factor required for rapid production. Where rapid metal prototype part and short-run tooling applications typically get by with sub-standard material properties, rapid metal production demands significant hardness, low porosity, crack and stress-free uniformity, and consistent predictable results time after time. ProMetal's 5-year research activity and investment in materials laboratory equipment has resulted in patented binders and process techniques that can now produce consistent hardness readings of 30-35 Rockwell-C for its stainless steel and bronze composites, with porosity below 1.5% and crack-free, stress-free material. The company is focusing on the needs of plastic injection mold tooling to drive its material quality programs.

About ProMetal
ProMetal, a division of the Extrude Hone Corporation based in Irwin, Pennsylvania, provides advanced rapid production equipment, technology, materials, spot and contract production services, design consulting, and process research. ProMetal’s agile rapid production services revolutionize solid-freeform-fabrication (SFF) delivery of metal and ceramic parts, tools, and finished goods.

The ProMetal 3D printing process is a breakthrough technology that produces fully functional metal and ceramic objects directly from CAD files in a matter of hours or days rather than weeks or months. It utilizes an ink-jet printing technique to create a three dimensional object one layer at a time from proprietary ProMetal formulations of metal and ceramic powders and binders.
Among the benefits of the ProMetal 3D printing process are virtually unlimited design flexibility, complex internal geometries, undercuts, overhangs, angled and curved passages, and the opportunity to create countless other component features that would be impossible to duplicate with traditional machining methods. Applications include structural components, architectural detail, one-of-a-kind products, conformal cooling and venting, and new casting techniques.
ProMetal parent company Extrude Hone has over 40 years of experience in non-traditional machining and advanced part finishing, and is a respected provider of equipment, services, and consultation, supplying the majority of the world’s largest manufacturers. Twenty-two locations worldwide provide local finishing services, equipment, and sales throughout Europe, Asia, South America and the USA.

# # # #
ProMetal is a registered trademark of Extrude Hone Corporation.
Third-party case studies for plastic tooling operational results are in process and will be available in late June.
Micrographs and other laboratory testing results are available now, and photographs can be provided.

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