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Printer Open Source

Affordable 3D Metal Printer Developed Based on RepRap 199

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the reprap-to-take-over-world dept.
hypnosec writes "Researchers have developed and open-sourced a low-cost 3D metal printer capable of printing metal tools and objects that can be build for under £1,000. A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Joshua Pearce at the Michigan Technological University developed the firmware and the plans for the printer and have made it available freely. The open source 3D printer is definitely a huge leap forward as the starting price of commercial counterparts is around £300,000. Pearce claimed that their technology will not only allow smaller companies and start-ups to build inexpensive prototypes, but it will allow other scientists and researchers to build tools and objects required for their research without having to shell out thousands, and could be used to print parts for machines such as windmills." It's a modified RepRap; looks like we're getting closer to the RepRap being able to print all of its parts.
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Affordable 3D Metal Printer Developed Based on RepRap

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  • Piracy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:12AM (#45648351)

    You wouldn't download a car........?

    • You wouldn't download a car........?

      You wouldn't steal a baby.

      • +1 Crafty. There will be a 'tell' when this technology is truly viable. It will probably begin in a Congressional Committee for Oversight...
    • Fuck yes I would!

      And next year I will be uploading some car parts. Stay tuned for my 4AGE 16v ITB adapter and crank ladder bars.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Has anybody said "guns" yet?

      • by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:47AM (#45650277)

        With this technology, guns will be a side show. Yes, people will make them and there will be much bloviation about that, but the real impact will be on local economies.

        Open any phone book or Google for any city, "machine shop"; there will be hundreds. They are the foundation of any kind of manufacturing economy. My company deals with at least 20 different shops, parceling out work to meet shipping deadlines and lower costs. When this technology matures to the point where it is as ubiquitous as a CNC mill or lathe, you will see turn around times crash and labor shift from skilled machinists to skilled CAD engineers (good or bad...you decide). It's conceivable that the actual making of a part becomes almost a lights out operation.

        Hang on to your hats, this will be a game changer in the world economy.

        • by iamgnat (1015755)

          I don't think that's really true, at least not in the near term.

          Years ago I had something simple made out of steel at a local machine shop and it cost be a bloody fortune for something simple. That's the kind of stuff this will be replacing for the near term. The one off relatively simple things is where something like this printer comes into play and (good) machine shops don't live off of that type of work. What you are talking about is the higher volume and higher skill machining and that will not be repl

        • This won't replace a machine shop. It uses a MIG welder as an extruder, so precise tolerances aren't what this machine is for. Hackaday [hackaday.com] featured this yesterday, and they have a picture on the front page that may have come from an academic journal.

          It might complement other equipment in a machine shop, though. It's also interesting to realize that this may work with other metals.

  • by bejiitas_wrath (825021) <johncartwright302@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @04:57AM (#45648509) Homepage Journal

    This will be the next thing demonised in the media, even though the technology has many positive benefits in terms of manufacturing. But after printing the object do you still need to trim it and sand it down? Maybe you print it slightly oversize and then trim it down to smooth it out. What is the exact finishing process with this tech?

    • Re:3D printed guns. (Score:5, Informative)

      by felrom (2923513) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:40AM (#45649281)

      The demonization has been going on for a while. Here's an article from almost a year ago: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/01/18/meet-steve-israel-the-congressman-who-wants-to-ban-3d-printable-guns-qa/ [forbes.com]

      Steve Israel wants to ban your access to 3d printers, and he's using guns as a way to get the camel's nose under the tent. Here are some particularly telling quotes from the interview in the story linked above:

      What we’re trying to do is make it clear that if you choose to construct a weapon or weapon component using a 3D printer, and it’s homemade, you’ll be subject to penalties.

      Catch that? If you're a business, doing it for commercial gain, then he thinks it's okay. If you're the little guy, doing it as a hobby, then simply doing it even if no one ever gets hurt will get you sent to jail.

      Steve Israel: But if you’re going to download a blueprint for a plastic weapon that can be brought onto an airplane, there’s a penalty to be paid.

      Interviewer: Just for downloading it?

      Steve Israel: No, no, for actually manufacturing it. And we’re not even going after manufacturers, either, but lone wolves, individuals.

      Again there, if you're a business he's fine. If you're an individual, it's banned. He even slips and admits he want to criminalize the sharing of the information.

      So we’re talking to stakeholders, and working to create a distinction between that lone wolf and legitimate manufacturers of plastic clips.

      Make no mistake: the forces working to ban private ownership of 3d printers are already moving against you. The bogey man of undetectable guns is simply a convenient way to get people on board with the first step of restriction. Once that's in place another big-business congressman will come back and say, "Poor GM is losing money because it can't sell overpriced factory parts because people are just printing them. Ban all private 3d printer ownership!"

      The only thing in question is how many people will be fooled and take up the torch and pitchfork against 3d printed guns, not realizing that they're working against their own desire to have privately owned 3d printing technology. As is commonly the case, the fight for gun rights is only a microcosm in the larger fight for natural and civil rights. You want 3d printers? You're going to have to fight to protect 3d printed guns. You want marijuana legalized? You're going to have to fight for private ownership of machine guns. You want to continue to be free from poll taxes? You're going to have to support repealing the NFA.

      Issues of law and politics don't each exist in separate vacuums.

  • It's not really clear what it's doing. The photos show square bits of metal, and no signs of any kind of additive manufacturing. This looks more like a computer controlled metal cutter. Which is nice and all, but not really a 3D printer.

    When I heard "metal printer" I thought it was a laser sintering machine or something of that kind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Its a MIG welder with a moving base plate. This means the resolution will be quite poor (like 4-5mm wide draw path) and you will need to print onto a metal plate/base and then cut it off after if required. Despite its limitations it is an interesting concept.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        But is the resolution actually that bad? Because that would be quite useless. You'd have to machine the final product in practically every case.

        I guess we'll never know, because the linked article was hosted on a cracker jack box. Techienews indeed.

        • by tgd (2822)

          But is the resolution actually that bad? Because that would be quite useless. You'd have to machine the final product in practically every case.

          I guess we'll never know, because the linked article was hosted on a cracker jack box. Techienews indeed.

          Yes, it would be that bad. I can't imagine there's really any use for a "printer" like that ... you'd end up with a messy blob of metal with little strength that would need more machining to make useful than it would take to just CNC... or use a real sintering printer.

          Its sort of a cool hack, but ... I mean, if you want a non-plastic printer, make one that prints out cookie dough. At least you'd get something tasty out of it.

          • by u38cg (607297)
            This thing is a proof-of-concept, mostly designed to let other people get started and improve it. I don't see anything about the technique itself that couldn't be miniaturised.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Yes, it would be that bad.

            Citation needed. The paper does not in fact specify the feature size, but it does say it's related to wire size. I think it's much smaller than you think.

            • The problem is that while a finer wire can produce a smaller weld bead it is still rather substantial compared to the wire that was used. Go with too fine of wire and the resistance will get to high and you will just vaporize the wire and foul tips. For example really fine wire (what I use for automotive sheet metal work) is .024" in diameter and there is still a fair amount of work to clean it up so you would never know the weld was there.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @05:00AM (#45648527)

    I first tried laser sintering 5 years ago - I got a few steel gun parts custom-made by a "printing" company, then mounted the parts in a real gun and got the proofhouse to shoot it until it died. I was working for a certain very well known luxury gunmaker at the time, and we were investigating new ways of producing parts in very small volume.

    The laser sintered parts were as good as, or better than the original parts! And the prices are great too: we paid per cm3 of material "printed", which worked at at just under $900 for a receiver, as opposed to $7500 for the equivalent part machined with conventional tools.

    I've known since then that this is the future of metalworking. As a result, I've been holding off upgrading the lathe and the milling machine in my workshop, because I've been waiting for a metal-building machine that doesn't cost a quarter million bucks.

    This $1000 thing probably won't be it, but the next generation machines, or the generations after them, will. At last!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This isn't laser sintering. Its using a MIG welder like a plastic 3D printer uses filament.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The laser sintered parts were as good as, or better than the original parts!

      But does that mean that the sintered parts were good, or that the originals are shit? You haven't given us enough information (make, model, caliber, and year of firearm to start with, not to mention the actual parts) to make this determination ourselves.

      I'm only skeptical because "powder metal" (large-volume sintering) is shit. A PM conn rod for a 7.3 powerstroke is twice as likely to fail and has 1/10 as desirable a failure mode as the forged part; it's ten times more likely to break rather than simply ben

      • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @07:00AM (#45648903)

        But does that mean that the sintered parts were good, or that the originals are shit? You haven't given us enough information (make, model, caliber, and year of firearm to start with, not to mention the actual parts) to make this determination ourselves.

        Well, I can't give you any specifics (make/model) or I'd reveal whom I worked for, and I'm under a non-disclosure agreement.

        But here's an example of what I experienced with the sintered metal:

        I took a test side-by-side 12 cal which had silver-brazed demi block barrels made of high-quality Bohler steel. I had a lock printed. All we did to the lock was polish it a bit to achieve perfect fit in the receiver, when we shot the gun repeatedly in double-shot with proofhouse loads (+30% powder). At some point, a rather massive 2-mm disjunction occured at the breech. We figured the lock's metal had given way. In fact it was the barrel's lugs that had flattened themselves onto the lock, and the lock itself was just fine. We were really amazed!

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @07:21AM (#45648983) Homepage Journal

          Interesting, but still not clear why the failure occurred.

          A very quick browse of available literature (VERY) suggests that laser sintering produces a very fine crystal structure, which suggests that the laser-sintered metal will have the same problem as other types of sintered metal. That fine crystal structure is inferior to a large grain structure. Parts will snap instead of bending when they do finally fail if sintered as compared to forged, or machined from forged billet.

          Still cool for prototyping, and lots of parts. I'd rather have laser-sintered parts in my gun than traditional powder metal. I'd rather have parts made from forged billet than either.

  • Wake me up when we can print silicon.

    Any developments in this direction? It surely would be possible to print a 1950's type of transistor at home, right?

    • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @06:24AM (#45648777)

      I'll be more impressed when it's capable of printing a vaccuum tube...

      • I'll be more impressed when it's capable of printing a vaccuum tube...

        Printing a metal-shelled tube shouldn't be that hard.

        Printing the vacuum, on the other hand.

        • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Funny)

          by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:31AM (#45649243) Homepage

          I'll be more impressed when it's capable of printing a vaccuum tube...

          Printing a metal-shelled tube shouldn't be that hard.

          Printing the vacuum, on the other hand.

          Attach a small fan to it as an air-printing attachment, then turn the power plug 180 degrees so it runs backwards. Do I really have to think of everything around here?

        • Make it in space. It's cooler and the vacuum would be easy.
          • by Whorhay (1319089)

            Or use a multiple material printer and as you build up the walls fill it with liquid mercury, and add a small valve. When the tube is completed let the mercury drain out for the most part, it should pull a vacume behind it, and then permanently close the valve.

            Historically you would make the vacume tube and then put it through a process to create the vacume and seal the tube. One of the better was of creating the vacume was to attach the tube to a tube trap through which mercury was dripped. The space betwe

    • Wake me up when we can print silicon.

      Any developments in this direction? It surely would be possible to print a 1950's type of transistor at home, right?

      We already print silicon. That's how Intel and AMD make their chips. Print masks and deposit materials through the masks.

      Ohhhh. You wanted a home printer for silicon!

      Seriously, take a look at the photo of the original transistor. Not exactly a work of beauty there. But the hard part about making more sophisticated chips is in refining and doping the silicon. Granted, you probably don't have ion-deposition equipment in an old closet either, but you can't just build micro-electronics from the kids sandbox.

      • Wake me up when we can print silicon.

        Any developments in this direction? It surely would be possible to print a 1950's type of transistor at home, right?

        We already print silicon. That's how Intel and AMD make their chips. Print masks and deposit materials through the masks.

        Ohhhh. You wanted a home printer for silicon!

        Seriously, take a look at the photo of the original transistor. Not exactly a work of beauty there. But the hard part about making more sophisticated chips is in refining and doping the silicon. Granted, you probably don't have ion-deposition equipment in an old closet either, but you can't just build micro-electronics from the kids sandbox.

        Actually we print on thin slivers of silicon. You wouldn't accuse a Xerox of printing paper would you?

  • Right now I am imagining a bug that causes a self-printing printer to go out of control, so that the printers keeps printing printers that keep printing printers that keep ...

    • Right now I am imagining a bug that causes a self-printing printer to go out of control, so that the printers keeps printing printers that keep printing printers that keep ...

      Cue up Paul Dukas. Bomp-de-bomp-de-bomp-de-bompitty...

    • by OmniGeek (72743)

      In 1955, Philip K. Dick wrote a short story, "Autofac [wikipedia.org]", about self-replicating machinery. Still a good read, IMO.

    • Right now I am imagining a bug that causes a self-printing printer to go out of control, so that the printers keeps printing printers that keep printing printers that keep ...

      It's called the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

  • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:54AM (#45649751)

    "...looks like we're getting closer to the RepRap being able to print all of its parts."

    Sure, assuming it can print an Millermatic 140 arc welder and an Arduino.

    Look, nature has already solved this problem, so we know something about the complexity and difficulty involved. We have cows that print milk and copies of themselves, chickens than print eggs and copies of themselves, grass that prints grain and copies of itself, etc. These things consists of millions of cells, each about as intelligent as an Arduino. Good luck creating something like that with a few hundred parts!

    • "A horse can make other horses, that is a trick that bulldozers haven't figured out yet."

                Heinlein

    • by Smidge204 (605297)

      With a little finagling, you can print serviceable PCBs and functional transistors using the same basic machine. Not in any real quality of course, but "it technically works" proof of concept stuff so far.

      But after a certain point, you're no longer printing parts but just commodity items. For example, there's no point in printing nails for a wooden frame because nails are literally cheaper than a dime a dozen to begin with.
      =Smidge=

  • do generate more comments about guns than anything else. But I guess other uses are not "newsworthy". We are all idiots and we deserve the government and laws we refuse to do anything about. 30k dead per year is nothing compared to the value of our freedom to kill 30k per year. Yay! We win!

  • Isn't an affordable 3D metal printer simply a welder attached to an x, y, z axis table? With a welder you can control the bead size by simply adjusting the feed rate and current. What is the issue here? Just get a mig welder, disassemble and attach it to a robot, then enclose the whole thing in a box filled with inert gas.

    • Just get a mig welder, disassemble and attach it to a robot, then enclose the whole thing in a box filled with inert gas.

      And then write the control software etc...

      This is basically what they've done. And they're giving you the plans so you can do it more easily.

  • Well, I'm not going to worry until it's capable of scavenging the raw materials to build copies of itself.

    That could get a bit dicey.

    cf "The Mechanical Mice" by Eric Frank Russell

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