Ender 3 Meets MIG Welder To Make A Metal Benchy — Kind Of

Metal 3D printed Benchy

When you can buy a 3D printer at Aldi, you pretty much know that 3D printing has been reduced to practice. At least for the plastic version of 3D printing; metal printing is another thing entirely. It’s easy to squeeze out a little molten plastic in a controlled fashion, but things get a little more — energetic — when you try to do the same with metal.

At least that’s what [Lucas] has been experiencing with his attempts to build a metal 3D printer over on his Cranktown City YouTube channel. Granted, he set himself up for a challenge from the get-go by seeking to stick a MIG welder onto an Ender 3, a platform that in no way was ready for the abuse it was about to endure. Part 1 of the video series below shows the first attempt, which ended badly for both the printer and for the prints.

But that first prototype, melted parts notwithstanding, gave [Lucas] enough to go on for the improvements of version 2, including a better build plate, heat shielding for the printer’s tender bits, and a legit MIG welder wire feeder. [Lucas] also built current control in, with a clever non-destructive interface to the welder controls. These improvements were enough to attempt a Benchy print, which started out pretty decent but got a bit droopy toward the end.

As imperfect as it is, the Benchy is a vast improvement over the formless blobs from version 1, and the printer holds quite a bit of promise for the future. One thing you can’t accuse [Lucas] of is giving up on a project too easily; after all, he built a laser cutter from scratch, including the laser tube.

Thanks for the tip, [Slade].

20 thoughts on “Ender 3 Meets MIG Welder To Make A Metal Benchy — Kind Of

  1. ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat.’ – Brody (Roy Scheider) in Jaws (1975).

    The boat is too small!, if it was bigger the flaws would smaller relative to the scale.
    But the real problem would be smoothing all the surfaces for lower friction with the water. I wonder could you use something similar to car body filler, if built at a higher scale, to make the finished external surfaces smoother (lower drag).

    1. The boat (benchy) was filled. It doesn’t matter how smooth it is ’cause it’s gonna sink anyway.

      It’ll probably fill with water, too. It is filled, but it has a lot of gaps.

      “Hydrodynamically smooth” is the smalles problem this boat has.

      It’s a paperweight – just like the video says.

  2. My initial thought was, who MIG welds, perpendicular and expects good results.
    It’s not a plastic filament hot end, it needs to be tilted, dependant on the direction of travel and not just pulled along in a straight line either for that matter.

      1. There’s a video making the rounds of a concrete printer that has a separate rotational axis that smooths the outside of the print to produce a zero layer-lines print. Since most gcode controllers have some level of look-ahead trajectory planning, something similar that swivels the feedwire might work.
        With that said, I don’t think this is a situation where you’d want that. People who do MIG welding angle the head into the weld to focus the arc and heat forward for better weld penetration into the surrounding cold metal. This process is different. You don’t want a sizeable weld pool because you have little material to heat up. I think the vertical wire setup is better for what is a build-up process rather than a weld-together process.

  3. Being someone who used to be in the 3D metal printing industry, this benchy attempt is really quite spectacular. With a MIG system, you’re never going to get anywhere near what a laser printer is going to give in metal – even Relativity Space can’t get rid of the layer texture.

    It’s best to think about printing like this as a replacement for casting rather than a finished part from a mill or die casting. Once in that frame of mind, what this process can yield becomes pretty exciting after it gets scaled up and more importantly, when the ability to do complex structural shapes is factored in.

    The water spray is an interesting idea, especially if this was done in aluminum.

  4. Like that bridge they 3D printed in Holland using the same technqiue, it’s an interesting idea / concept it’s insanely expensive in time, materials, and electricity (and emissions), and results in a weaker structure that’s way more likely to have flaws or other issues.

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