large image

Turn up the metal. Our latest investment gets disruptive.

Byron Knight, managing director of Koch Disruptive Technologies, shares why 3D metal printing creates countless possibilities for manufacturing and society at-large.

January 23, 2019

min read

Our CEO, Charles Koch, often says “the future is unknowable, but it’s not unimaginable.”

So imagine being able to run an auto parts store without a warehouse full of inventory – because you can “print” the parts faster and cheaper yourself. Or being able to design and manufacture metal parts with precise internal geometries that are not possible with traditional metal-working techniques. Imagine being able to create the lightest-weight parts possible that still maintain strength and stability requirements with virtually no wasted resources.

That is the disruptive promise of 3D metal printing – or additive manufacturing, as it’s known in the industry. It’s why Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) is excited to be investing in and partnering with, Desktop Metal, a truly revolutionary company on the leading edge of making this amazing technology a reality.

KDT has explored multiple possible investments in additive manufacturing. We believe it’s a technology with the potential to disrupt multiple links in the value chain from design and fabrication, to shipping and logistics, to the idea of what “inventory on hand” even means.

A few months ago, we began exploring Desktop Metal and found that they were on the leading edge of additive manufacturing in some very unique ways. First of all, they demonstrated solutions for many of the technical and material challenges that have kept 3D metal printing behind the capability curve of its plastic counterpart. Secondly – and just as important from a user and mass adoption standpoint – their hardware and software solutions are exceptionally easy to use and set-up in an office environment.   

Studio-System-part-RESIZED.jpgAt KDT, we see 3D metal printing as more than just a replacement for existing metalworking techniques. It’s a step-change in the design of metal parts that will allow us to build things we haven’t even thought of yet or that were previously considered impossible to create. The acceleration of these innovations and the open-source accessibility to tools for experimentation across our enterprises and cultures will encourage transformation. The technology even makes possible one-off parts, personalized to a consumer – imagine medical devices like a metal hip or joint replacements, designed specifically to an individual patient’s needs.

At Koch, an employee on a facility production floor could experiment in near-real-time with prototypes of a metal component to improve a whole process line. For example, one of our companies makes a fuel atomizer, a device used to efficiently supply fuel to a burner in industrial applications. With Desktop Metal and their innovative additive manufacturing process, this device can be radically redesigned to function in a more fuel-efficient manner than through traditional metalworking, ultimately reducing the amount of fuel required and saving resources. This is just one small example of what’s possible. Extrapolated across a broad marketplace including automotive, aerospace, consumer products, medical devices and more, we begin to see the birth of an entirely new platform.

  • Fuel atomizer created by Desktop Metals

    This fuel atomizer was created for John Zink Hamworthy Combustion, a Koch company, by Desktop Metal's 3D printing process. It is used in liquid natural gas transport to help propel ships.

  • Fuel atomizer firing created by Desktop Metals

    The fuel atomizer firing.


While KDT’s strategy is to identify and invest in potentially disruptive technologies, the driving force behind our decision to partner with Desktop Metal is the power of mutual benefit – applying new and innovative ideas to help both Koch and Desktop Metal transform how they operate, as well as bring transformative benefits to all of our collective customers. If we do this well, it will deliver strong financial results, transform businesses and add value to society at large.

We are excited and optimistic about partnering with Desktop Metal to reimagine the future. Desktop Metal is KDT’s third significant investment, adding to a portfolio that includes medical technology and hybrid cloud software. We look forward to continuing to work with Koch businesses to discover new technologies that can transform our capabilities and catapult us into a better, more productive future.