Startup Secures Funds To Expand Additive Manufacturing Applications

Velo3D technology allows complex metal parts to be 3D printed without support structures.
Credit: Velo3D

Fielding a technology that can expand the use of additive manufacturing in parts production, startup Velo3D has secured $28 million in Series D funding, taking total financing raised so far to $138 million.

The California-based company has developed a laser fusion metal additive manufacturing system that removes the need for temporary support structures in 3D-printed parts, eliminating the requirement for finish machining and reducing the cost and time required to produce complex parts.

Velo3D is in the process of delivering 12 Sapphire additive-manufacturing machines to an unnamed customer that is using them to produce parts for aerospace applications. The company is also working with Honeywell Aerospace to qualify the system to 3D-print Inconel parts.

Additive manufacturing using power-bed fusion methods introduces thermal and residual stresses into parts. Temporary support structures are designed into the parts as printed to help prevent thermal distortion and enable heat transfer, but must be removed by post-print machining.

Support structures are needed when part angles are less than 45 deg., says Velo3D, but often these low-angle geometries are created in internal channels that are inaccessible after printing. The company says its technology can print angles and overhangs down to 0 deg. as well as large-diameter tubes.

Examples of parts produced using the Sapphire printer include impellers, manifolds and heat-exchanger structures. Velo3D says it is working to enable the production of “free-floating” parts that do not need to be anchored to a build plate and then machined off. Examples include turbine blades.

The latest funding round was led by venture capital fund Piva, which is backed by Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas. Investors include Japanese industrial gas manufacturer TNSC and existing backers Bessemer Venture Partners, Playground and Kholsa Ventures.

Velo3D has found early customers in the oil services industry, including Kunst-Godwin. But the Texas-based parts manufacturer is now expanding into the aerospace market, as is Sapphire customer PWR, an Australian-headquartered heat-exchanger manufacturer serving the race car, military and now aerospace markets.

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.