3D Printing Aluminum with Nanoparticles

We love our 3D printers. But sometimes we really wish we could print in metal. While metal printing is still out of reach for most of us, HRL Labs announced a powdered aluminum printing process that they claim is a breakthrough because it allows printing (and welding) of high-strength aluminum alloys that previously were unprintable and unweldable.

The key is treating the metal with special zirconium-based nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act as nucleation sites that allow the aluminum to form the correct microstructure. The full paper on the process appears in Nature.

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6-Axis Robot Arm 3D Prints A Metal Bridge

Do you remember the MX3D metal printing robot? It’s now capable of 3D printing a metal bridge. Here’s the news release, but it’s in Dutch (translated).

Over one year ago we covered the beginning of the MX3D project, which was a rather ambitious foray into 3D printing in metal with a industrial six-axis ABB robot arm. They had previously done a version using resin (MX3D Resin Printer), but then upgraded the system to use a heavy duty welding machine to deposit various metals.

One year later, they’ve tuned it even more. To show it off they printed a free form standing bridge that people can actually walk across.

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A Rostock Welding 3D Printer?

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?

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