south africa, metal, alloy, gold, platinum, inkjet, 3d printer, sinter, crowdfundWhat if I told you that very soon you might be able to 3D print metal the same way you’d print out a document.

Over at Indiegogo a South African team has developed a method for 3D printing that may bring this idea to life.

When it comes to 3D printers, there are tried and true methods for turning raw plastic or powdered metal into printed parts. The two most common methods are either plastic filament or pellet extrusion or the more sophisticated laser sintering used in metal 3D printing.

However, I-AM 3D’s new 3D printing method differs from these approaches.  According to their pitch at Indiegogo, the I-AM 3D is different because, “Unlike most other 3D printers that use a plastic filament or a powder as material to build a part the i-AM 3D uses a liquid ink as material that is deposited with an inkjet print head according to the design. The ink is then cured (sintered) by means of a laser that is guided by galvometer scanners.”

While that process sounds a little different than your traditional 3D printer the real distinction comes when you hear about the composition of I-AM 3D’s inks. Today, the Pretoria team has been able to print with 3 precious metal based inks, gold, palladium and platinum and expects that titanium, aluminum and composite alloys will be available is short order.

In the end I-AM 3D says their 3D printer will have a build volume of 600x400x480mm, likely making it a desktop model.  However I imagine scaling this machine up wouldn’t be too big of a problem. In fact, I wonder if this new method of printing could spell an enormous improvement in metal print times. Imagine if the I-AM 3D team could scale this machine up and use multiple print heads assigned to separate part of a model.  

Over at Indiegogo the I-AM 3D team has set up a modest crowdfunding effort with a $25,000 goal. If you’re interested in this very promising development in 3D printing tech, head over to the groups page and give ‘em some support.

Watch A Video of the I-AM 3D in Action:

Image and Video Courtesy of I-AM 3D

 

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