founder

Metallum3D Founder Nelson Zambrana Discusses 3D Printing

Introduction

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, brings two-dimensional objects from a digital file into the three-dimensional world. Although the industry has grown rapidly, there are still technological difficulties that need to be overcome. As an example, when working with materials like metal and ceramic, traditional sintering can take several days to complete. It’s also difficult to use multiple materials — like metal, ceramic, and plastic — simultaneously.

Metallum3D has designed a patent-pending solution to hasten the sintering process. Through the company’s technology, sintering time can be reduced from days to mere hours. We reached out to Metallum3D founder Nelson Zambrana to learn more about the challenges his company’s technology has overcome.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Zee Zhong

Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?

Nelson Zambrana

Metallum3D is the first additive manufacturing company to develop a commercially viable microwave sintering process that reduces the sintering time of 3D printed metal and ceramic parts by up to 90%. Our patent-pending microwave sintering technology provides an order of magnitude improvement in performance over existing systems, reducing sintering times from days to hours.

Zee Zhong

What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?

Nelson Zambrana

Prior to founding Metallum3D, I was working in new product development in the medical device industry, and I experienced firsthand the technical challenges and high costs of existing additive manufacturing technologies. There was a gap between what was technically possible and what was financially viable. We took the leap to develop new additive manufacturing technologies to close this gap.

Zee Zhong

What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?

Nelson Zambrana

From an educational perspective, I studied business administration at Penn State University and received a degree in mechanical engineering from Temple University. In terms of work experience, I have spent the last 25+ years in multiple engineering, engineering management, new product development, and operations management roles in companies such as Hewlett Packard and Medtronic.

Zee Zhong

What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?

Nelson Zambrana

Our vision is to make industrial additive manufacturing more accessible to a broader set of customers by improving both performance and costs. In other words, we aim to provide our additive manufacturing customers with more value.

Zee Zhong

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Nelson Zambrana

We have a small, focused management team composed of Kyle Redinger (board director), Phil Williford (board director), and myself (board chairman and CEO). Kyle is a serial entrepreneur, real estate developer, and angel investor. In 2012, Kyle co-founded Vivid Cortex, a SaaS database performance platform that was acquired by SolarWinds in 2019 for $117.5 million. Phil is a US Special Forces Army veteran who currently is the senior director of Worldwide Operations and Continuous Improvement at Herbalife Nutrition Corporation, a global company with over $5.5 billion in yearly revenues. The team came together over a shared vision, and we have been working together since January 2017.

Zee Zhong

Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?

Nelson Zambrana

Current microwave heating processes, including sintering, are primarily based on multi-mode resonant technology. This technology has found enormous success in low-power, domestic microwave oven applications due to its robustness and simplicity. 

When applied to a sintering process, there are two major technical challenges with multimode resonant systems that have prevented the broad commercial use of microwave energy for sintering. The first challenge is non-uniform microwave energy distribution, which results in hot and cold spots inside the microwave cavity. The second technical challenge is a reverse heating profile where the inside of the part is hotter than the outside of the part. Until now, these two technical challenges had remained unsolved, thereby preventing the broad commercial use of microwave energy for sintering. 

Metallum3D is the first company to develop new, patented technologies that solve these two technical challenges, allowing us to offer the first commercially viable microwave sintering process. The companies that currently make microwave sintering furnaces all use multi-mode resonant technology, which is only suitable for small-scale experimental use. Our true competition comes from existing additive manufacturing companies that use conventional sintering furnaces. The two most notable competitors are Markforged and Desktop Metal, both of which use conventional sintering furnaces that are characterized by long sintering times that are measured in days. Metallum3D’s patent-pending microwave sintering technology provides a significant competitive advantage by reducing the sintering process time by up to 90%. From days to hours, an order of magnitude improvement.

Zee Zhong

What does your business model look like?

Nelson Zambrana

We sell additive manufacturing hardware and consumable 3D printing materials.

Zee Zhong

What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Nelson Zambrana

We were attracted to equity crowdfunding because it democratizes investment opportunities in startup companies. For a lot of people, meeting the accredited investor requirements is difficult, which excludes them from making equity investments. Equity crowdfunding levels the playing field and allows a new class of investors to invest in startup companies. 

After four years of intensive research and development work, we are ready to commercialize our patent-pending technologies. We will be using the proceeds from this equity crowdfunding round to go to market and begin generating revenue.

Zee Zhong

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Nelson Zambrana

Our primary business goal is to provide our customers with an additive manufacturing system that provides them with exceptional value. The value we provide has two components: 1) performance and 2) cost. We aim to provide our customers with the best performance by developing innovative, patent-pending technologies. And we aim to provide our customers with the best (not lowest) cost by operating our company with sound engineering, manufacturing, and business practices.

Zee Zhong

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Nelson Zambrana

 In terms of exits opportunities, there are two possible scenarios:

1) An acquisition by a company that could benefit from our microwave sintering technologies. Our microwave sintering technology is compatible with multiple manufacturing processes outside of the additive manufacturing industry, which effectively increases the number of potential acquirers.

2) Investor liquidity through selling shares in a secondary market.

In terms of future goals, we have a five-year plan in place, which, when executed, will prepare the company for either exit scenario.

We look forward to seeing where Nelson and his team take the company. Metallum3D is currently raising on StartEngine.

68
About: Zee Zhong

View Zee Zhong's founders