It’s been close to six months since we initially covered the Covington, Kentucky-based company Plus-Mfg and their unique take on metal 3D printing. Whereas other companies use lasers to sinter or melt metal powders one layer at a time, Plus-Mfg takes a different approach, combining old technology with new.
Unveiling their +1000k 3D printer in March of this year at Automate 2015 in Chicago, Plus-Mfg impressed many within the crowd. The +1000k uses inert gas shielded arc welding technology to rapidly print using multiple metal materials, one layer at a time. When compared to other technologies such as direct metal laser sintering or selective laser melting, Plus-Mfg’s technology may have seemed a bit archaic, relying on a MIG gun for an extruder. With that said, since my initial article in March the company has unveiled a whole slew of updated information and images of actual parts printed on their machines, and I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed.
While in March we knew very little about the specifications of the +1000k machine, and there were no detailed prints which we could examine to compare to other metal printing processes, over the last several months a lot has happened within the company from an R&D standpoint. For one we now have full specs for the machine, which are as follows:
- Build Envelope: 1,200 x 900 x 600 mm
- Printer Size: 2,450 W x 2,450 D x 2,285 H mm
- Input Power 220VAC 3 phase
- Rate of Deposition: 2.5Kg/Hr (using 0.035 wire) – Upgrade of 20Kg/Hr deposition rate (using 0.065 wire)
- Other Key Features: Continuous monitoring of part temperature, quenchant tank and chiller to cool or heat treat parts
While the base machine comes equipped with a single print head allowing for single material prints, there is an option to add up to three additional print heads to the mix, allowing for objects to be printed out using multiple metals. The metal materials currently compatible with the printer are E70 steel, 300 series stainless steel, titanium and 6000 series aluminum, with multiple other materials coming soon, according to the company, including copper and 7000 series aluminum.
In addition to the key specifications for the +1000k, the company has also just put out a video and images of recent prints along with some fairly impressive stats related to energy consumption, print speed and accuracy. The parts in the image below were each printed within a 50 minute time frame using just 2 kWh of electricity and approximately $20 in steel wire. In June the company set forth a rather ambitious goal to “make a metal part using less than half the energy required for sand casting while [using] less material to achieve the same strength.”
The goal for Plus-Mfg does’t seem to be incredibly high accuracies, rather they want to produce large metal parts using multiple materials which are cost-effective, and require less energy than other means of manufacturing. Although there still may be work to be done, the company seems to have made substantial improvements with their system which could certainly provide a fast, reliable and cheap way to manufacturing metal parts that do not require intricate detail.
Certainly we look forward to the continued progress of Plus-Mfg and their +1000k system. Let us know your thoughts on this impressive technology in the +1000k Metal 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com. Be sure to check out the video below showing the +1000k 3D printer in action: