For those standing, you might want to sit down and hold on to the edge of your seat! What I am about to report is going to shock those of you who thought a pure all metal filament would never make it to the desktop 3D printer world.
Word has it on the streets that a couple of guys, from the upper Midwest, have developed a 3D Printing Filament with a very high metal content. They have succeeded in producing an almost pure metal 3D printing filament that can run on virtually any desktop 3D printer anywhere. Something that any maker with a 3D printer can use no matter how cheap or expensive their printer cost. A very affordable filament that produces stunning results that go far beyond any other “metal type” filament on the market.
The company is The Virtual Foundry, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin and the filament is called Filamet™. While printer manufacturers were struggling for years to bring down the cost of 3D Metal Printers, these guys took a different approach. Rather than bringing the high end down in cost, Filamet™ was created to extend capabilities of current 3D printers to bring them up to the high-end machines.
Want to know how it works? There are two methods one of which is very basic and the second takes it a step further.
Take it a step further and pop your printed model into a kiln which will heat treat the print. First by vaporising any plastic binder then sintering the metal particles in the print. Walla, you have a 3D print that is 99.9+% Pure Metal!
I created an infographic showing the process:
For most people, polishing your Filamet™ model to shine will be more than enough to achieve their goal of a good looking model that is 8
For those looking for a purer, all metal will have to locate someone with a kiln to further refine their Filamet™ model as most people do not have a kiln sitting around.
For more information on prepping your model for a kiln please review the video below from The Virtual Foundry.
Currently, The Virtual Foundry makes the Filamet™ in Copper and Bronze, but more metals are in the works. They are also looking at further refining their process to bring in a more pure filament by raising the amount of metal from 88.8% on up to 92% by the end of summer.
I take this as a sign of good things to come in the world of 3D printing metal for desktop printers. We know more metal types are in the works so it should be interesting how far this goes.
Perhaps they will soon come out with a metal filament that can be quickly hardened to use in custom form tooling. I will be testing to see if we can use to aid in prototyping smaller sheet metal parts by printing small custom shape form tools for use in our CNC brake and forming presses.