Xerox Making Strides with 3D Printing Business

New manufacturing partnership to help US customers produce metal parts

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02/23/2022

Christine Dunne

 

Xerox is making headway with its 3D printing business, having recently announced an agreement with Vertex Manufacturing to add its ElemX liquid metal 3D printer to the latter’s Ohio-based contract manufacturing facility.

 

Xerox’s ElemX Liquid Metal 3D Printer
Source: Xerox

 

According to Vertex Vice President of Sales & Marketing Tim Warden, the ElemX technology gives his company (which was recently acquired by venture-backed medical equipment manufacturer PrinterPrezz) an added advantage to build parts faster and more reliably for its customers. This is achieved, in part, through easy deployment and minimal post-processing requirements.

 

Xerox’s History in 3D Printing

The ElemX was commercially introduced in 2021 as Xerox’s first 3D printer following the company’s acquisition of Vader Systems—a venture-funded 3D printing startup company—in 2019. This succeeded Xerox Chairman & CEO John Visentin’s 2018 announcement (during the company’s Q3 earnings call) that Xerox was “developing a roadmap to participate in 3D printing.”

 

Visentin noted the company already made 3D printheads that it OEMed, and that its differentiated capabilities around print technologies, materials, toner, and software would enable 3D printing to move to the next level of adoption for the production of end-use industrial products.

 

Xerox’s 3D capabilities stemmed from the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC): Xerox’s wholly owned, independent subsidiary focused on research and development. In fact, in 2017, this entity was chosen by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop “a new computational paradigm” that goes beyond the limitations of existing 3D design platforms. In 2016, Janos Veres, then-leader of PARC’s Novel and Printed Electronics Program, indicated that Xerox’s transformation would include 3D printing technologies.

 

PARC has been involved with other 3D projects and efforts; it continues to invest in research on 3D printing as well as technologies like the Internet of Things and cleantech with an eye toward commercializing these “novel and disruptive” technologies.

 

Xerox’s 3D Print Technology Addresses Supply Chain Challenges

In Xerox’s 2020 annual report, the company notes the potential of 3D printing—stating it is “poised to transform the $5 trillion manufacturing industry and improve global supply chains, decreasing complexities, reducing costs, and improving time-to-market.”

 

The mention of supply chain is clearly a hot topic right now, as manufacturers of print technologies and many other electronic goods are experiencing delays in receiving product and components as well as higher prices for these items.

 

Localizing supply chains is one way to minimize this issue going forward (check out other solutions in this Keypoint Intelligence blog post), as Paul Allen of Xerox Business Solutions highlighted during a recent conversation with Keypoint Intelligence about production and 3D printing.

 

Adding its ElemX liquid metal 3D Printer to Vertex Manufacturing’s facility is certainly a step toward helping US-based manufacturers and related companies simplify their supply chains by reducing reliance on parts from overseas sources.

 

Key Sectors for Xerox’s 3D Print Technology

The press release announcing the partnership mentions the ElemX’s appropriateness for the transportation, aerospace, defense, and industrial manufacturing sectors—particularly when it comes to making spare parts, repairs, and low-volume production parts. During Xerox’s Q4 earnings call, Visentin also called out the automotive industry as being an area of pipeline growth of potential ElemX customers. 

 

These manufacturing-heavy sectors can benefit from the fact no hazardous metal powders are used. Instead, the ElemX uses off-the-shelf aluminum wire that’s not only safer (according to Xerox), but also more cost effective and faster than metal powders.

 

The ElemX also has applications in the education sector, as highlighted by our Market Insights: Education Market Offerings/Expertise study and analysis (available to Office CompleteView clients)—in which we highlighted key trends in K-12 and higher education environments and how leading document imaging manufacturing are accommodating these requirements. We noted that the ElemX “can be used by faculty and students in university engineering departments to explore new applications for 3D printing metal parts and equipment.” One example is its use by the Naval Postgraduate School.

 

Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

It is exciting to see Xerox make commercial progress in its 3D printing business, particularly at a time when solutions to supply chain difficulties are greatly needed. While the ElemX will be one of multiple 3D devices at Vertex Manufacturing producing parts for customers, it will presumably be a go-to solution for applications in industrial manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, defense, and automotive.

 

We are eager to hear about future developments in the company’s 3D business, which are expected given the various irons Xerox has in the 3D fire. This includes the recent investment of Xerox Ventures in Massachusetts-based Seurat Technologies, a metal 3D printing company using a special laser technique with much potential in terms of manufacturing speed.

 

For more information on 3D print, head to The Key Point Blog and The Key Point Podcast. Also, stay tuned for some exciting announcements regarding Keypoint Intelligence’s involvement in the 3D print space.