Thursday, January 9, 2014

3D Printing Materials: Printing with Metal, soon to be mainstream?

Finding the proper 3D printing materials to make the objects people want can sometimes be a chore without paying for a more expensive printer. One of the most desired materials is metal and being able to produce full objects or parts for essential items we use in everyday life As great as standard 3D printers are in providing plastics, it can only go so far when combining other materials can create so much more.

Fortunately, having an affordable metal printer may be soon available. International Business Times reports on a new 3D printer being designed by engineers from Michigan Technological University that can easily print anything with metal. What makes this one so notable is that it could retail for a significantly lower price when bought disassembled.

How Printing with Metal Would Work in the Home
Photo Credit :
So far, only major companies have been able to afford high-priced printers that can print metal objects. One home-based metal printer already exists and plans to go to market in 2014. It's called the Mini Metal Maker, even if it's fairly expensive at $1000 when bought fully assembled. They already have a fundraising project for the printer on that's been very successful so far (as the RepRap project was).

It could be the above model will eventually compete on the market with the newer printer being developed at MTU. Regardless, the MTU model is promising much more sophisticated abilities, including being able to create machine parts made of steel.

This works by a commercial welder inside the printer that's specially equipped to meld metals together. As with other 3D printers that print with special materials, a nozzle is used to produce the heated metal.

The Implications of Having Metal Printers in the Home
The biggest concern is people can make weapons having access to a printer that so easily creates metal objects. In the above report, one of the engineers behind the new MTU metal printer says you have to keep an open philosophy about not damning the technology itself. It's all in how people use it, and the implications are truly staggering in how products could be created.

Being able to print out metal parts for cars, electronics or virtually anything else in our homes would completely change how we acquire things. It could pose a problem for manufacturing in factories, yet subsequently saving consumers thousands of dollars. In the immediate term, these printers can only create small to medium-sized items, despite this likely changing in another decade.

Will we be able to compromise on allowing products to be manufactured in factories for the sake of providing jobs and the economy? Or will saving money for consumers be the only focus?
No matter what happens, these metal 3D printers will likely be in many households within the next few years.  We'll keep an eye on the developments here at Mwave3D. Our blog gives you the latest on 3D printing and scanning news.


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