Mantle launches precision metal Additive Manufacturing technology aimed at the tooling market

February 25, 2021

The Mantle TrueShape technology is a hybrid Additive Manufacturing process: once the metal paste is deposited, a machining stage is undertaken before a final sintering stage (Courtesy Mantle)

Mantle, an Additive Manufacturing startup based in San Francisco, California, USA, has launched its TrueShape™ technology, a proprietary AM process to make high-precision metal parts. Having previously secured an unannounced $13 million investment by Foundation Capital, Hypertherm Ventures, Future Shape, 11.2 capital, Plug and Play Ventures, and Corazon Capital, the company has developed what it believes is the most precise and efficient metal AM technology for the tooling market.

Historically, product development cycles have been gated by tooling, since manufacturing companies cannot launch new products until the exact moulds and dies to produce them are created. These tools are made from high-hardness steel through a multi-step process that includes programming, cutting, and finishing the tools. This intensive process takes months and can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mantle’s process takes just days, which allows companies to deploy new tools within a few weeks while cutting costs by at least half.

The AM industry has pursued the tooling market for many years. The sector requires precision, as a tool that is too big or too small by just half the width of a human hair can be the difference between a product that works and one that does not, Mantle explains.

“Manufacturers require proven part quality and performance. By using Mantle printed tooling, they can continue to use the same high-performance thermoplastics and get parts of equivalent or superior quality in less time and at a lower cost,” stated Ted Sorom, CEO and co-founder of Mantle. “We help companies speed their products to market with dramatically faster new product introductions while leveraging their proven mass production expertise.”

Mantle claims that its TrueShape process is the first AM technology that can meet these requirements because it combines both Additive Manufacturing and subtractive finishing into a single hybrid process to yield superior accuracy and surface finish. The process uses unique metal pastes that produce high-hardness steels that meet or exceed the tooling industry’s demanding requirements.

“Mantle’s TrueShape technology delivered the dimensional tolerances and surface finish that are needed for the precision moulds we use at L’Oréal,” commented Blake Soeters, Director Product Conception, L’Oreal. “We are excited because of the positive impact this technology will have on our ability to rapidly bring new products to market.”

During the TrueShape process, tools are built, then shaped before a final sintering stage (Courtesy Mantle)

At the foundation of the TrueShape process is a line of proprietary Flowable Metal Paste (FMP) materials. FMP materials incorporate metal particles within a liquid to ensure safety and consistency during the build process. Different particle types and sizes within the paste minimise dimensional change during sintering and tailor the final metal for optimal material properties.

Using a Mantle tool insert, a global appliance manufacturer has already produced over 200,000 washing machine parts. The Mantle mould component cost 67% less than the cost from traditional methods and was produced in 70% less time. Similarly, a leading medical device manufacturer reduced the lead time for its tool by 80%. The built tool is reported to have performed just as well as tools made with traditional methods.

“Mantle is taking on the overlooked $45 billion tooling market that is a bottleneck for innovation because it is a slow process that has not changed significantly in seventy years,” stated Steve Vassallo, General Partner at Foundation Capital. “Until Mantle, no one has been able to develop tooling tech that is disruptive in either time or cost, let alone both, which made backing Mantle an easy decision for us.”

This medical test kit mould highlights the intricate detail possible with Mantle’s TrueShape technology (Courtesy Mantle)

Mantle’s TrueShape technology includes multiple tool steel materials, custom printing hardware, and a user-friendly software suite to deliver toolmakers a complete production-grade tooling solution. Further solutions are expected for a wide range of applications in the $300 billion precision parts market, including jigs and fixtures, low-volume industrial machinery and spare parts and high-volume part production.

“Mantle gives you the superpowers to make Apple-quality mechanical parts in days, not months, and lowers your cost by orders of magnitude,” added Tony Fadell, Principal at Future Shape. “That speed and affordability lets you iterate to get your parts to perfection and still lets you launch much earlier. I wish we had these Mantle tooling breakthroughs for our Nest, iPod and iPhone projects!”

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