Wellington startup Foundry Lab, which is backed by Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck, has raised US$8 million (NZ$11m) to invest in developing its metal casting prototype business.
Foundry Lab chief executive David Moodie, a former industrial designer, has developed microwave casting technology that enables same-day turnaround of metal castings.
That’s quicker than existing systems like investment casting, 3D printed sand molds and die-casting which take at least one to six weeks.
Moodie said the digital metal casting system allows users to create metal parts in any casting alloy for functional testing before committing to mass production.
“3D printing is great for look-alike parts, but the world runs on real parts, and metal printing can never produce a real casting,” he said.
Brake shoes cast by Foundry Lab went from CAD files to cast aluminium parts in less than eight hours.
“We’re able to work at speeds 3D printing can only dream of,” he said.
Moodie first began working on the idea of prototyping production-identical metal castings in 2018. The potential global market size is hard to determine as the system has not been possible before, however the metal casting market Foundry Lab is currently addressing, including aluminium, zinc and stainless steel castings, is worth about $83 billion a year.
Investors backing the project include Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck, Motional chief executive Karl Iagnemma and former Autodesk chief executive Carl Bass alongside venture capital firms GD1, Founders Fund, Promus Ventures, WNT Ventures, Icehouse and K1W1.
“Foundry Lab has the chance to impact industries and redefine how products are developed - it’s an ambitious mission and one that we’re excited to support” said Samantha Wong of Blackbird Ventures, which led the latest funding round. “We’re excited to help them scale globally.”
Moodie said bringing together experts such as Beck and Iagnemma alongside some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading investors was important for the company’s global growth aspirations.
“Our R&D is in New Zealand but our markets are offshore,” he said.
The investment will help Foundry Lab add new roles in radio-frequency and microwave engineering, mechatronics, mechanical, simulation and software engineering. It has growing interest from automotive industry giants, and is busy building the units to go out to trial customers. The funding will be used to help the company get production-ready by the end of 2023.
“One of the single biggest pain points in verticals such as automotive and consumer electronics is the inability to obtain rapid production stable and reliable metal parts that are also cost-effective,” said GD1 partner Vignesh Kumar.
“Foundry Lab solves this dilemma elegantly, and we are thrilled to be backing David and the team on their journey to modernise the global metal casting landscape.”