Can You 3D Print an Axe?

3D printers hit the scene in a big way in the last decade, and thanks to the constant improvements that we’ve seen since then you can now get a decent one, assembled or as a kit, for a reasonable price. The one major drawback is that almost all of these printers are limited to printing in plastic, which has its obvious limitations. Printing in metal seems like the next logical step, and a group from Michigan Tech has created something that is accessible to most of us. Spoiler: they used plastic and metal printing to print a functioning axe.

Untill now, most metal printers have used a process like laser sintering to achieve the desired effect. This group uses a much more common tool: a MIG welder. MIG welders work by passing a wire through the welding handle, which would normally used as the filler material for the weld. If you use the wire for laying down material rather than for welding specifically, you can build up material on a surface in essentially the same way that a printer that prints plastic would.

From there, all that’s needed is to attach the MIG welder to a CNC machine and get to printing. The team has produced some great results so far, including some metal braces and farm implements, so hopefully their work leads to another revolution in 3D printing for the masses. We think it’s high time.

3D-Printed Punch and Die Stand up to Steel

When you think of machine tooling, what comes to mind might be an endmill made of tungsten carbide or a punch and die made of high-speed steel. But surely there’s no room in the machine tool world for 3D-printed plastic tools, especially for the demanding needs of punching parts from sheet metal.

As it turns out, it is possible to make a 3D-printed punch and die set that will stand up to repeated use in a press brake. [Phil Vickery] decided to push the tooling envelope to test this, and came away pleasantly surprised by the results. In fairness, the die he used ended up being more of a composite between the carbon-fiber nylon filament and some embedded metal to reinforce stress points in the die block. It looks like the punch is just plastic, though, and both were printed on a Markforged Mark 2, a printer specifically designed for high-strength parts. The punch and die set were strong enough to form 14-gauge sheet steel in a press brake, which is pretty impressive. The tool wasn’t used to cut the metal; the blanks were precut with a laser before heading to the press. But still, having any 3D-printed tool stand up to metal opens up possibilities for rapid prototyping and short production runs.

No matter what material you make your tooling out of, there’s a lot to know about bending metal. Check out the basics in our guide to the art and science of bending metal.

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Digital Kiln

A kiln or foundry is too often seen as a piece of equipment which is only available if a hackspace is lucky enough to have one or individuals are dedicated enough to drop the cash for one of their own. [The Thought Emporium] thought that way until he sourced materials to make his own kiln which can also be seen after the break. It costs half the price of a commercial model not including a failed—and exploded—paint can version.

As described in the video, these furnaces are tools capable of more than just pottery and soft metal baubles. Sure, a clay chess set would be cool but what about carbon fiber, graphene, aerogel, and glass? Some pretty hot science happens at high temperatures.

We get a nice walk-through of each part of the furnace starting with the container, an eleven-gallon metal tub which should set the bar for the level of kiln being built. Some of the hardware arrangements could be tweaked for safety and we insist that any current-carrying screw is safely mounted inside an enclosure which can’t be opened without tools. There’s good advice about grounding the container if metal is used. The explanation of PID loops can be ignored.

What else can you do with a kiln? How about jewelry, heat treating metal, or recycle your beer cans into an engine.

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A Thoughtful Variety of Projects and Failures

Our friends at [The Thought Emporium] have been bringing us delightful projects but not all of them warrant a full-fledged video. What does anyone with a bevy of small but worthy projects do? They put them all together like so many mismatched LEGO blocks. Grab Bag #1 is the start of a semi-monthly video series which presents the smaller projects happening behind the scenes of [The Thought Emporium]’s usual video presentations.

Solar eclipse? There are two because the first was only enough to whet [The Thought Emporium]’s appetite. Ionic lifters? Learn about the favorite transformer around the shop and see what happens when high voltage wires get too close. TEA lasers? Use that transformer to make a legitimate laser with stuff around your house. Bismuth casting? Pet supply stores may have what you need to step up your casting game and it’s a total hack. Failures? We got them too.

We first covered ionocraft (lifters) awhile back. TEA lasers have been covered before. Casting is no stranger to hackaday but [The Thought Emporium] went outside the mold with their technique.

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Wield The Power of Molten Metal

[TheBackyardScientist] at it again with another super villain-esque demonstration of gadgetry: a liquid metal squirt gun.

The squirt gun has a compressed air tank like most others — more on that later — but to fire its primary ammunition, a nozzle that connects directly to an air compressor is needed. Again, like most guns of this nature, air is forced into the gun’s reservoir, displacing the pewter and expelling it out the gun’s barrel. Yes, pewter.

Working around the heat tolerances of thread seal tape, pewter has a low enough melting point that an airtight system is preserved — plus it’s really cool to fire a stream of liquid metal. The ammunition is made from pewter ware melted down and cast into pucks. These pucks are stacked into the gun’s magazine, melted with a propane torch and carefully loaded into the gun.

The built-in compressed air tank lacks the oomph to push out the pewter — hence the air compressor, but any lighter liquids or condiments are fair game for rapid-fire exercises. Yes, condiments.

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Gateway to Metal Casting

Casting is an exciting and very useful pastime, but it’s not exactly common these days. That’s a problem whether you’re just getting started or have been doing it for years: everyone can use the advice of another. Fear not! The US Department of Energy is here to help with the Industrial Metal’s Program’s Metal Casting cornucopia.

Although not strictly a hack, this is certainly a facilitator of hacks and any experienced user would do themselves some good by perusing the site. Click on the maps to find complex issues presented remarkably well for papers at this level of rigor. Seriously, check them out.

However, since these papers go into such depth, we can’t really say the material is beginner friendly. That’s not to say it would be bad for a newbie to read through, just that it might be a bit discouraging. But, if you need to figure out where to start in the maze of molds and sand and molten metal, we might have some articles that might help you out.

Do y’all know of any good casting resources on the interwebs? If so, leave ’em in the comments!

Thanks [RunnerPack] for sending this in.

DIY Roll Bender Keeps it Simple and Sturdy

If you’ve ever tried to bend a metal pipe or bar over your knee, you’ll know that even lightweight stock requires quite a bit of force. And the force needs to be properly directed, lest the smooth bend you seek become a kink or a crease. When your hands and knees no longer fill the bill, try [MakeItExtreme]’s sturdy and simple roll bender.

As we watched the video below, we had a little déjà vu — hadn’t the [MakeItExtreme] crew built a roll bender for their shop before? Turns out they had, but in reviewing that video, we can see why they gave it a second shot. This build is a model of simplicity compared to the previous. With a frame fabricated from just a few pieces of steel I-beam, this version is far more approachable than its big brother and just about as capable. The three forming rollers ride in stout pillow blocks and can be repositioned for different bending radii. A 2-ton hydraulic bottle jack provides the force needed to direct the stock through the rollers, which are manually powered. In a nice touch, the incomplete tool was used to create the rim of the large-diameter handwheel for the drive roller.

The tools keep piling up at [MakeItExtreme]’s open air workshop — we even get a glimpse of their heavy-lift electromagnet that we recently featured. As always, we love the fit and finish on these builds, and watching the time-lapse videos is like a condensed class in metalworking.

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