When it comes to desktop 3D printing, we are still relatively limited when compared to the tools which larger companies have at their fingertips. While we are still leaps and bounds ahead of the manufacturing technology that makers and hobbyists had access to 5-10 years ago, we are still quite a ways off from being able to fully reap the benefits of self-manufacturing the products we need on an everyday basis. For one maker, who goes by the handle, ‘AvE’, he decided to try and change all of this.
The idea of 3D printing with metals on a desktop 3D printer is one which still remains an obstacle for designers, engineers and other makers. The machines capable of doing so are priced well out of the range which most individuals can afford, and the safety precautions required for running one of these large scale 3D metal printers from ones own home or garage just is not feasible. AvE, however, decided to take a normal desktop 3D printer and create an add-on module which would allow him to machine metal in a way not typically thought of.
AvE created a print head module that uses EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining) to gradually remove materials from metal objects, thus allowing a user to shape that object however he or she would like. EDM is sometimes referred to as spark eroding, wire burning or spark machining, as it utilizes electrical discharges between two electrodes to slowly remove material from a metal object.
“Because conventional machining requires highly rigid machine tools, it is not suitable for 3D printers,” AvE explains. “The beauty of EDM is it is a non-contact process; the cutting tool does not touch the workpeice, that makes any 3D printer a perfect platform for installing an EDM subtractive print module.”
Typically EDM is used for creating objects out of hard metals which are normally too difficult to machine with traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques. This method has the ability to cut very detailed curves and grooves into metal objects without needing to heat treat the metal in order to soften it. It provides many benefits and a huge reduction in time as well as potentially dangerous steps. AvE’s creation allows anyone with a FDM/FFF desktop 3D printer to turn their printers into an EDM machine.
“It’s a bolt-on upgrade for existing 3D printers,” AvE explains. “It uses zillions of sparks to vaporize the metal workpiece, then the water jet flushes away these particles of metal. This module will allow you to cut metal parts on any 3D printer. It will also bolt on to existing CNC machine tools as well as stand alone as a small scale Ram EDM.”
As you can see in the videos provided, the add-on module isn’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing device, although AvE explains that it is still in the testing phase, and will look much better once he has a final product created. While he admits that the design is “ugly”, yet “robust”, he plans to next improve upon the device’s overall design to make it look and perform better.
While this product is still under development, it offers a lot of hope to those makers out there who are looking for an affordable, easy way to machine metals. This module would be perfect, and quite safe to use within one’s garage, allowing for the creation of detailed metal objects without the expense of ridiculously pricey 3D metal printers or other machinery.
What do you think about this add-on module? Is this something you would use? Discuss in the EDM 3D Printer Add-on forum thread on 3DPB.com.