Tired of printing in boring old plastic? Why not try metal? Researchers at Michigan Tech have come up with an open source reprap style design of a 3D printer that can print metal for only $1200.
The paper was published in IEEE Access a few weeks ago that it outlines the design and testing of this printer, which is basically an upside down Rostock with a MIG welder used as the extruder. As you can imagine, the quality and resolution of the parts isn’t that amazing (hang around after the break to see an example), but this is an exciting step forward for 3D printing. Equipped with this and a mill and the possibilities are quite endless!
Did we mention how cheap welding wire is? A cost that could add up is the shielding gas though, but as a user on Reddit points out, an upgrade for this machine could be an enclosed build chamber which could then just be flooded with the gas. Alternatively, would flux-core welding wire work?
As you can see, the printed part is rather rough — but it is solid carbon steel (ER70S-6). Combine this with a quick machining pass on a CNC and you’ll have a prototyped metal sprocket that barely wasted any material! We can’t find the video right now, but there was a commercial machine that is basically the same concept, using a modified 6-axis robotic welder. Its main purpose was for the production of large mostly hollow parts, like a wing casing on a plane. Instead of machining a giant chunk of metal, it could be printed and then cleaned up with a single machining pass — considerably less material processed.
So who wants to try building one?