Service Bureau Finds Big Savings in Binder Jetting Vs. Metal Injection MoldingAugust 30, 2021
FreeForm Technologies, St. Mary’s, PA, a service bureau for customers across a range of industries, counts itself as an early adopter of metal binder jet additive manufacturing (AM), and also offers fused filament fabrication of metal and plastic parts as well as stereolithography contract-manufacturing services.
Two founders of FreeForm, Nate Higgins and Chris Aiello, count decades of experience with metal injection molding (MIM), but have been searching for a way around the tooling challenges—lead time, cost, part-design limitations—inherent in MIM. They think they’ve found it in binder jetting, courtesy of the recent addition of Desktop Metal’s P-1 Production System.
By eliminating the need for tooling, the P-1 system has helped FreeForm realize significant cost savings, according to company officials, while dramatically reducing lead times—instead of waiting weeks for tooling, designs can be sent to the printer as soon as they’re completed. And, with AM, FreeForm explores new design territory, incorporating features such as lattices, generative designs and undercuts that otherwise are too expensive to justify, or require expensive and time-consuming postprocessing.
Examples abound attesting to the company’s success with binder jetting. FreeForm normally would use MIM to produce a medical component used to hold grippers during minimally invasive surgeries due to its small size (weighing 2 grams) and relatively complex geometry. With the P-1 system, however, FreeForm delivered a 50-part pilot run to the customer in less than 10 days, and could ramp up to 1000 pieces (pictured) in only 15 days. Via MIM, this component requires as much as much as 12 weeks of lead time and more than $40,000 for tooling fabrication, sampling and inspection, all before production of a single part. FreeForm reports similar success with the P-1 system for AM production of machinery controls, an alignment jig, holddown latch and consumer-product prototypes versus MIM.