Fluent Metal is developing production-grade liquid metal printing technology for more functional, sustainable, and economical metal parts. (Photo courtesy Fluent Metal/PRNewswire)

Fluent Metal is developing a liquid metal printing technology for rapid production of custom, multi-metal parts.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—A Boston-area startup is developing a production-grade liquid metal printing technology to remove barriers to entry into metal additive manufacturing and provide “unmatched scalability and process tunability.”

According to Fluent Metal, its “drop-on-demand” approach is compatible with most metals, including refractories. By enabling creation of parts in a single-step process, it minimizes variability. The process is described as energy efficient, as it uses less starting material and energy than powder-based metal 3D printers and produces no waste.

“Drop-on-demand technology is an elegant approach to create complex metal components,” said Peter Schmitt, CEO of Fluent Metal, in a release. “Whether it’s prototype iterations of an idea or production runs of a single part, Fluent Metal will provide customers with great operational and material flexibility. This freedom will unlock new creativity and problem-solving abilities across industries.”

Fluent Metal came out of stealth mode this March after closing a $3.2 million venture capital funding round—led by E15 with participation by Pillar VC and industry angel investors—that brought the company’s total funding to $5.5 million, according to the release.

Fluent Metal is intent on developing an alternative to existing metal additive manufacturing, which requires extensive industrial-scale overhead to operate the equipment safely. Its lean-overhead process uses an inkjet printer-like approach to make it more sustainable, operationally efficient, and functional, the company said.

How is it functional? According to Fluent Metal, the answer lies in its use of wire as the starting material in a no-waste process that enables “true multi-metal printing.” High-value metals can be intricately combined to create properties that weren’t previously possible. Complex shapes, such as fully enclosed voids and internal channels, are possible due to the inkjet-like printhead and parallel throughput, the company said.

The company describes its drop-on-demand approach as “operationally efficient” because it is designed to operate safely on a typical manufacturing floor or even in a prototyping shop, without the need for clean rooms or expensive safety measures. Material changeover is designed to be easy as plug-and-play, reducing setup efforts and allowing for higher machine uptimes.

“As the manufacturing industry evolves in response to the changing needs of global supply chains and sustainability demands, we need novel approaches to drive creativity and expand our collective conception about what’s possible,” said E15 Managing Partner Philip Liang, in the release. “In the near term, Fluent Metal will spark the imagination of designers, engineers, and technologists to consider how rapid, on-demand production of custom metal parts could transform their capabilities. At scale, this approach will revolutionize the entire footprint and direction of industrial manufacturing.”

Fluent Metal is led by industry veterans from Desktop Metal, Vulcan Forms, and the MIT Media Lab.