It’s really incredible how quickly 3D printing has progressed in the last few years. Most of this progress has been with the use of thermoplastics via fused filament technology, as well as photosensitive resins via stereolithography technology. Both these methods of printing are changing the way companies prototype, individuals create, and businesses save money.
The ultimate progression of 3D printing will put the power of metal manufacturing into the hands of everyday people like you and me. Imagine going out into your garage and printing a new wheel for your car, and a wrench to put that wheel on your car. This could be possible sooner than you may have ever imagined. Currently, there are numerous companies that regularly utilize metal 3D printing via a variety of emerging technologies such as Electron Beam Manufacturing, Selective Laser Sintering, etc. These machines are all very large, utilize a significant amount of energy, and can cost well over $1 million.
Weld3D, headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, is trying to change all this by developing the technology necessary for at-home metal-based 3D printing. What started out as a couple of curious aerospace engineers working in a garage on nights and weekends has turned into more than just a project. Weld3D is trying to turn this garage experiment into a full fledged business.
“We are aerospace engineers that started development of our idea and process about a year ago,” explained Paul from Weld3D. “The original intent was just to see if we could achieve low cost metal printing. We follow the industry trends and are aware of all the high end metal printing work being completed; we are also aware of the researchers and startups showing some of their developments.”
Although many details of the technology they have been working on remain a bit of a mystery, the company assures us that things are moving quickly, and that they have been able to print complex geometries and designs out of metal. The current printer they are testing uses an arc welder, but the company claims to have notebooks full of ideas for other related processes. Initially they plan to release a product that can be fitted to personal CNC machines, so that the barriers and cost of entry are lessened.
“We would use capital raised from the initial products to fund some of our more advanced ideas that all involved low cost 3D printing with metal,” Paul told 3DPrint.com. “All with the goal of continuing to advance the technology.”
Weld3D is also currently in talks with suppliers capable of building custom machines, and the company continues to research a number of new metal alloys for use within their machines. Within weeks, Weld3D will be publicly releasing results of several mechanical property tests, and over the coming months additional photos, videos, and data will be release allowing individuals to even build their own metal printers. Exciting times are certainly upon us, as 3D printing continues to progress at a staggering pace.
Let us know your thoughts on the possibilities that this printer could provide in the Weld3D Metal Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below showing their printer prototype in action: