Metal Clay Printing
Metal clay printing is based on using metal clay which is easily molded and extruding thin layers on to of each other. The process is very similar to filament based plastic 3D printers in that the clay is pushed through an extruder nozzle which is moved in an x-y fashion.
The printed part is soft until it is fired in a kiln where the binder and excess materials drain away and the small metal particles in the clay sinter and bond to one another leaving a slightly porous but 100 percent metal object. The kiln must reach the sintering temperature of the metal inside the clay or the prat will be weak.
The metal clay itself is a mixture of very small particles of metal such as silver, gold, bronze, or copper mixed with an organic binder and water.
Metal clay was invented in Japan, 1990. It was originally intended to help jewelers to make intricate designs out of metal quickly and affordably.
Pros and Cons
- The clay itself is easy to shape at room temperature, this allows us to use and retrofit current plastic 3D printers, such as the reprap, to print with metal clay.
- Metal Clay comes infused with many different metals, leaving a lot of choice!
- In order to go from print to finished part a kiln is required, some metals require an oxygen free kiln for the metals to bind properly.
- Prints are limited in their height (z axis) due to the soft clay not being able to support much weight.
Currently the Mini Metal Maker is the market leader in Metal Clay 3D Printing, having successfuly raised over $30,000 for the project.
From the Mini Metal Maker Website...
"The Mini Metal Maker brings together two distinct developing technologies: metal clays and low-cost 3d printing. It addresses the needs of a growing number of artisans and DIY makers who would like to produce products and prototypes directly in metal. Rather than printing with plastic materials, the Mini Metal Maker prints 3D objects by extruding specially blended metal clay, which fuses as it drys. Once dry, the clay object is fired in a pottery kiln, a process which removes all of the PMC's organic binders, leaving behind only high-purity metal in the original shape of the print."
The Netwon3D Website.
Here are the printer specifications...
* desktop metal 3D printer working with non proprietary metal clay including steel, bronze, gold, silver, etc. * standard resolution of up to 400 micron, * build volume: ~5in x ~5in x ~2in.