Low Cost, Open Source Metal 3D Printer
Kyle Maxey posted on December 04, 2013 | 15127 views

3d printing, metal, DIY, Michigan Tech, open-sourceOpen-source has long been a part of the consumer 3D printer world, but a new machine in development at Michigan Tech might lead to metal 3D printing for the masses.

Everyone familiar with the 3D printing world knows it’s one dominated by plastics. While there are printers that use metal, concrete and various other print stock, the material most often used for rapid prototyping is some form of plastic. A form which certainly gets the job done, but cannot match the look or properties of metal.

According to Michigan Tech associate professor Joshua Pearce, he and his team have developed an open-source metal 3D printer for $1,500. Using a small commercial MIG welder and an open-source microcontroller, Pearce’s team has been able to build complex objects layer by layer.

Although I haven’t seen any stats regarding the printer’s resolution, a press release from Michigan Tech has said the machine can print small sprockets. Regardless of its resolution, the Michigan Tech printer is impressive if only because of its cost, which runs well under the price of many plastic 3D printer models.

While his project is still a work in progress, Pearce is confident open source metal 3D printing will quickly catch on. “Similar to the incredible churn in innovation witnessed with open-sourcing of the first RepRap plastic 3D printers, I anticipate rapid progress when the maker community gets their hands on it,” says Pearce. “Within a month, somebody will make one that’s better than ours, I guarantee it.”

Now the advent of DIY metal 3D printing might raise fears of more reliable 3D printed weapons, but more likely than not, metal 3D printers will be used to make objects similar to what’s currently made in plastic 3D printers – trinkets, replacement parts and one-off designs.

Image Courtesy of Michigan Tech

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