A small project has launched to provide a new kind of metal filament for personal 3D printers that is specially designed for use by artists.
Sure, you can get metal filament today from several sources. Brass, Copper, Stainless Steel and Tungsten are among the many metal filaments available. These product are essentially a standard polymer like PLA that’s been infused with a mix of fine metal powders.
The resulting prints can be polished to appear as if they were fully made from metal – and they’re a lot heavier than standard plastic.
However, there may be a problem. The Virtual Foundry, the folks behind the Filamet project, want “high quality” metal filament. This is different than simply having consistent color and dimensions. They explain:
The products we are presenting here are our first foray into a commercial solution to an affordable method of creating metallic items from a desktop 3d printer. The final items obviously don’t contain all of the properties of a pure cast metal sculpture, however, the most vital properties are successfully retained. Most important is the visual appearance, a solid feel in the hand and a nice cooling effect as it touches your skin. Since up to 85% of this product is pure metal, it faithfully retains the properties of that substance.
They’re seeking a filament that exhibits the full look and feel of actual metal in resulting prints. When they say the filament contains 85% metal, that’s a big change – many other metal filaments have far lower ratios of metal to plastic.
While the higher ratio may indeed produce 3D prints that are for all intents and purposes “metal”, there could be a downside: metal filaments are known to gradually abrade hot end nozzles, particularly those made from softer metals such as brass. The increase of metal ratio could cause a proportional increase in nozzle wear, too.
But that may be a reasonable price to pay if you can get “real” metal prints.