two - Mixing Powders with Thermoplastic

Mixing Powders with Thermoplastic

The Sinterhard team, based in Massachusetts, is a mid-sized group of engineers of nearly every type, from software engineers to electrical engineers. Headed up by Bill Novacs, who holds a multitude of advanced degrees (including engineering), and considers himself a ‘maker,’ this group is on a clear path to transform not only the manufacturing of industrial parts, but more specifically, they are transforming it on the 3D printing level with a new filament: Sinterhard Metal Filled Filament.

With a campaign just launched on Kickstarter in hopes of raising $15K by May 6th, this group of highly educated and experienced folks is working to gain support for their product, which offers ABS and PLA plastic filaments that are mixed with metal, in the form of either powdered 316 stainless steel or aluminum. The team chose those particular metals as they are most commonly used in the Metal Injection Molding [MIM] and Ceramic Injection Molding [CIM] processes currently responsible for producing nearly $2 billion in small metal and ceramic industrial parts each year.

The stainless steel and aluminum powders they are starting with are also assured to produce high quality 3D printed parts and offer, respectively, moderate and low-sintering temperatures.

“Today’s filament 3D Printers replace the injection molding machine, and we propose the Sinterhard metal filled filaments will replace the MIM feedstocks,” states the Sinterhard team.  “From that point forward, the MIM and CIM processes are the same as envisioned for the 3D metal filament printer process.”

During a “debinding” process, the plastic is removed from the printed part, with the soft printed part being referred to as a “green part.” After the plastic is gone, what is left is a “brown part,” which is soft metal. This is then heated to “near-full density and hardness” in a furnace.

“The MPF process is essentially identical to the existing MIM process, except that the 3D filament printer replaces the plastic injection molding machine, and the mold,” states the Sinterhard team. “The Sinterhard metal filled filaments replaces the MIM feedstocks.”

one - Fine Mesh 316 SS and Aluminum PowdersThe Sinterhard team has literally decades of experience in both MIM and CIM processes and are well-versed in the metal powders being used, as well as how to make them. Looking forward to ‘stretch goals’ and beyond, the team will down the line use further extra funds to purchase more powders—including different varieties, as well as those that consist of larger particles. Of even more interest, the team plans to produce an open-source guide for 3D printing with metal.

This is no small endeavor. The Sinterhard team has a 30,000-square-foot warehouse with full office space to work on production of this filament which they foresee replacing traditional process like injection molding. These filaments are meant for larger manufacturing projects and not for the average, small-scale 3D printing enthusiast.

three - Bill Kovacs

Bill Kovacs, Sinterhard founder

Funds for this Kickstarter campaign will be used to finish and refine their product, working to make certain it is perfected enough to have just enough plastic to make high-quality prints. It must be balanced though in making sure there isn’t too much left, leaving voids. Their ultimate goal is for anyone who desires it to be able to function as a large-scale manufacturer of small industrial parts.

Pledges beginning at $50 receive a pound of Sinterhard Metal Filled Thermoplastic Filament filled with 316 stainless steel or aluminum, in the user’s choice of PLA or ABS. Supporters at certain levels also receive design guides with filament.

Does this metal filament interest you? Do you think it will be responsible for revolutionizing the manufacturing of commercial parts by replacing injection molding? Share your thoughts with us in the Metal Filled 3D Printing Filaments forum over at 3DPB.com.

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