Metal 3D printed Benchy

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

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.

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A weld bead laid down with homemade CO2

Cooking Up A Batch Of Homebrew Welding Gas

You know the feeling — you’re making good progress on a weekend project, you’re really in the groove, things are going right. Right up until you run out of That One Thing™ that you can’t do without, the only store that sells it is closed, and you get a sudden case of whiplash as your progress hits a virtual brick wall.

Of course, every challenge holds the opportunity to hack your way around it, which is how [Lucas] ended up building this carbon dioxide generator. The “IG” in MIG welding stands for the “inert gas” that floods the weld pool and keeps the melted metal — the “M” in MIG — from rapidly oxidizing and ruining the weld. Welders often use either straight CO2 or a mix of CO2 and argon as a MIG shielding gas, which they normally get from a commercial gas supplier, generally on non-weekend days.

[Lucas] turned to grade-school chemistry for his CO2 generator, using the vigorous reaction of baking soda and vinegar to produce the gas. Version one was sketchy as all get-out; the second iteration still had some sketch factor thanks to the use of ABS pipe, but the inclusion of a relief valve should prevent the worst from happening. After some fiddling with how to get the reagents together in a controlled fashion, [Lucas] was able to generate enough CO2 to put down a decent bead — a short one, to be sure, but the video below shows that it worked.

Could this be scaled up to something for practical use? Probably not. But it’s cool to see what’s possible, and something to file away for a rainy day. And maybe [Lucas] can use this method to produce CO2 for his homemade laser tube. But again, probably not.

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Turning A MIG Welder Into A Metal 3D Printer

Metal 3D printers are, by and large, many times more expensive than their FDM and resin-based brethren. It’s a shame, because there’s plenty of projects that would benefit from being able to produce more heat-resistant metal parts with additive fabrication methods. [Integza]’s rocketry projects are one such example, so he decided to explore turning a MIG welder into a 3D printer for his own nefarious purposes. (Video, embedded below.)

The build is as simple as you could possibly imagine. A plastic adapter was printed to affix a MIG welding nozzle to an existing Elegoo Neptune 2 3D printer. Unfortunately, early attempts failed quickly as the heat from the welding nozzle melted the adapter. However, with a new design that held the nozzle handle far from the hot end, the ersatz metal 3D printer was able to run for much longer.

Useful parts weren’t on the cards, however, with [Integza] facing repeated issues with the steel bed warping from the heat of the welding process. While a thicker steel base plate would help, it’s likely that warping could still happen with enough heat input so more engineering may be needed. It’s not a new concept by any means, and results are typically rough, but it’s one we’d like to see developed further regardless.

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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.

Printing In Metal With A MIG Welder

Whenever the question of metal 3D printers comes up, someone always chimes in that a MIG welder connected to a normal 3D printer would work great. A bit of research would tell this person that’s already been done, but some confirmation and replication is nice. A few students at TU Delft University strapped a welder to a normal, off-the-shelf 3D printer and made a few simple shapes.

This project builds on the work of [Joshua Pearce] et al. at Michigan Tech where an MIG welder and delta bot was used to lay down rather complex shapes on a metal plate substrate. The team at TU Delft used a cartesian bot – a Prusa i3 – for their replication because of the sheer mass of moving a metal build plate, firebricks, and welder around.

In the first few prints on their machine, the team was able to lay down enough metal to build a vertical wall. It’s not much, and to turn this into a finished part would require some machining, but these are only the beginning steps of what could become a legitimate way of creating metal parts. Video below.

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Multi-purpose Welding Cart

[Todd Harrison] put together a welding cart that has all kinds of tricks built-in. The carcass is a cheap rolling cart that has been reinforced with steel plate and beefier wheels. The top tray can be loaded up with fire brick for oxygen-acetylene welding or with a grate for cutting. That grate lets the slag fall through and into the red-rimmed fire-box below. Finally, there’s a steel plate to the right of the cart that rotates and slides over the top of the unit to prepare it for MIG welding. Todd walks us through his versatile invention in the video after the break. This will nicely augment your other welding hacks.

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Flux-cored To MIG Welder Conversion

[Rob] sent us some information on how he converted his flux-cored welder to a metal inert gas welder. He used a piece of DOM tubing as a collet with a side inlet tube that he uses to inject carbon dioxide. The gas is sourced from a 12 ounce paint ball CO2 tank and it looks like there’s a valve right at the junction with the collet. We wonder how long it would take to tear through one of those tanks, but if you’re not doing a lot of MIG welding this saves on the upfront cost of buying a separate setup.