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Open-source metal 3-D printer

2013-12-04

Co.Labs

"Printing" Metal Objects Is Now Possible With This DIY 3-D Printer

A team of scientists have designed a low-cost 3-D printer that allows for the manufacture of metal objects. And you can build it yourself right now.



In the 3-D-printed future, we will buy less and make more. Everything from food to human organs, we’re told, can be manufactured this way. But the 3-D printers available now only print with plastic resins--which isn’t going to cut it in a new industrial revolution. For that, we’ll need to print in metal.

Three-D printing with metal isn’t impossible, but it has been prohibitively expensive until this month. A team of scientists from Michigan Technical University led by Joshua Pearce have developed a 3-D metal printer that works just like its popular plastic-forming brethren--by laying down thin layers of steel to form any geometric shape the user has a digital plan for. What’s more, their designs, software, and firmware are all completely open source and available to anyone with access to materials that will set you back less than $1,500.

The decision to make their printer completely open source and available to the DIY community was a conscious one, says Pearce in a recent iTech Post story:

Pearce is the first to admit that his new printer is a work in progress. So far, the products he and his team have produced are no more intricate than a sprocket. But that's because the technology is so raw. "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, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering. "Within a month, somebody will make one that's better than ours, I guarantee it.”

Pearce is also aware that the printer, and the decision to make it open to the general public, doesn’t come without risk. In its current configuration, the printer requires more safety precautions than a regular, plastic-making 3-D printer, and is only recommended for construction by those who have a shop or garage where it could be operated safely.

There’s also the worry of what the technology could be used for. Should the ability to effectively 3-D print using metal become widely available, guns and other weaponry are going to become a very prominent and widespread concern--although it may be a moot one, considering that we don’t need metals to 3-D print a gun.

[Image via Appropedia]






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5 Comments

  • Joel Lee

    I can understand why the author felt compelled to mention the gun printing since it's the hot topic of the day. I emplor those with a voice to not continually squander it by perpetuating the idea that the early adopters are going to be hand-wringing and dreaming up all the destructive possibilities

  • Yehuda Braun

    yeah...

    let's express our sincere concerns about technologies in the hands of our citizens being "a dangerous thing" whilst...

    the police are murdering american citizens left and right and walking away.

    habeus corpus was suspended by the previous president.

    our lapdog press has naught to say or ask regarding whether the citizenry will have any input as to when the drones over america will be armed and when they will be armed.

    our government and our disunity is our enemy.

  • Eric McCann

    There’s also the worry of what the technology could be used for. Your own worry I assume. I only worry when criminals, and police are allowed to have guns and the rest of us have no protection. That's more frightening.

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    It might be helpful to discuss how much it costs for the printer, materials (metals) available, and how much an actual "printed" part would cost of various dimensions, weight, or how ever it is calculated. I have ideas I would like to "print" but if it's still cost prohibitive, or I can't use the metals I require, then it's not yet useable for my needs.