The 3DMetalCreator is a unique device: it’s a pen that can print in metal.
It’s quite analogous to plastic 3D printing pens, like 3Doodler, where the operator simply holds the extruder in hand like a pen and gradually creates a solid object.
Unlike the plastic pens, where the object is “finished” when extrusion completes, the items created with the 3DMetalCreator undergo a second stage: kiln firing.
That’s because the material being printed here is not actually 100% metal. It’s a proprietary clay mix containing metal. The clay allows the metal to flow during extrusion and hold the metal particles in place, and is diminished when kiln firing occurs.
The metal clay formulation is not new; inventor Bill Struve developed it (after some 274 attempts) some years ago for use in the jewelry industry. Today, they’ve sold over 22 tons of bronze clay that’s been used by artists worldwide.
But if you’ve got a great material, why not develop a way to deliver it, too? That’s exactly what Struve and team did. They created a very straightforward device to extrude this metal clay: the 3DMetalCreator.
It’s powered by a separate CO2 cartridge, which, when engaged through a foot valve, accurately starts and stops pushing metal clay through the handheld extruder. The metal clay is stored in a special cartridge that can be replaced. From there, it’s as simple as drawing your object - in 3D.
Once the object is completed, it is taken to a normal kiln to be fired. This solidifies the object and brings out the embedded metal. The fired objects are essentially metal, and can be finished through any traditional techniques, such as polishing, filing, drilling, etc.
There’s more. According to Struve, their next material will be a silver paste, which has been requested by artists and jewelers.
And we also understand that the metal clay cartridge is intended to be used in the Mini Metal Maker 3D printer later this year. This machine is designed around the same principle, but the addition of well-established metal clay materials should make results even better. Especially if you can print silver objects, too.
For now, you can participate by joining the company’s Kickstarter campaign, where you can place an order for a USD$175 3DMetalCreator, which includes not only the extruder, but also the CO2 tank, multiple nozzles and a cartridge of bronze clay. However, you’ll need access to a kiln for that option to fully work. If you’d like your own kiln, they offer for USD$900, a kiln to go with the package.
We’re quite interested in this project because it offers a feasible means for anyone to actually 3D print in metal at home at low cost, which otherwise is a tremendously challenging feat, in terms of cost, safety, environment and complexity.