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Presenting the Mini Metal MakerThe Mini Metal Maker is very exciting to me because it is a unique combination of an artistic material with the field of 3D printing. The Mini Metal Maker prints 3D objects from digital files directly in metal clay, rather than in plastic. Once these clay objects air-dry, they are fired in a kiln to produce beautiful solid metal objects of high purity and precision. Using metal clay essentially replaces the entire wax-casting or lost-wax process ordinarily needed to do this. The Mini Metal Maker will add new capability for the DIY inventor or artist by making fabrication in metal easy and direct. It will be a boon for anyone interested in creating their own gears, miniature mechanisms, or printing detailed jewelry or metal ornaments. The Mini Metal Maker is built around the concept of using the minimum number of parts, reducing the cost to produce and also eliminating many chances for error during assembly.
With your helpYour contribution will help us turn our working prototype into a mass-produced product. We demonstrated the concept and created a prototype Mini Metal Maker in our shop. It currently runs on the open-source software used by the RepRap community, and is driven by off the shelf high-precision stepper motors. We have personally funded the R&D for this project for the last 6 months, and are ready to take it to the next level – with your help. Our goal is to create a product that is ready for market in three different forms:
- A downloadable product, including 3D build files and DIY instructions.
- Kits containing the hardware, software, and assembly instructions.
- Fully Finished and calibrated machines with software installed.
Monies raisedWe aim to raise $10,000 for materials to refine and package our technology into a producible product.
In order to achieve the reliability and price point needed to make this good invention a great product, we need to finish our research and development. Funds will go toward the following activities:
- Refine the metal clay recipe for each of five different clay types: Copper, Bronze, Steel, Silver & Gold.
- Refine our high-pressure extruder design. We currently have a reliable extrusion trace at around 0.5mm but believe this can be reduced to 200 microns.
- Add a second print head for use with additional metal clays or support material.
- Optimize the integrated motor carriage design so that it can be easily printed on low cost printers such as the Makerbot and RepRap.
- Refine custom firmware for the printer to further optimize printing for clay.
- Create the Mini Metal Forge software environment in order to foster a good user experience, particularly for the non-technical craftsperson.
- Work with industrial partners to tool up for production of the machine with injection molding.
If we do not reach the entire goalThis project has been carried this far through incremental progress, and we will continue moving toward our goal: A mass produced and available Mini Metal Maker. Regardless of the funds we raise through this campaign, we will be carrying out the following tasks in the order listed above, as it is the most logical path to completion. Your contributions help us carry out these activities, no matter how large or small.
The Mini Metal Maker is a game-changer in the world of do-it-yourself 3-D printing. It gives engineers and designers a new tool for fabricating precision parts without expensive machinery or difficult manual processes. It puts a powerful new tool in the hands of artists and craftsmen for creating customized repeatable items in metal. It is also a valuable and accessible educational tool because it is low cost and small enough to be portable. I've always dreamed of being able to print miniature parts and detailed sculptures directly in metal. To me, the Mini Metal Maker moves 3D printing from the land of plastic toys into the real world of arts, science, and engineering. I have had so much fun creating and using the Mini Metal Maker, and believe that you will too. Other Ways You Can Help Your words are precious to us. If you can not contribute, or if you simply wish to help another way, please like us on Facebook, share our website with your friends, and spread the word about the Mini Metal Maker to anyone who might be interested.
What is the Mini Metal Maker for?The Mini Metal Maker is for printing custom jewelry such as rings and gem settings, sculptures, specialized machine parts, ornamental hardware, metal chains, or even special hardware such as miniature turbines or pistons.
Who will use the Mini Metal Maker?The Mini Metal Maker is for anyone interested in creating small detailed metal objects. This includes the 3D Maker community and as jewelry artisans. The Mini Metal Maker is also a valuable tool for design engineers and machinists, who require small runs of specialized hardware for creating prototypes. The Mini Metal Maker adds new capability for the DIY inventor or artist by making fabrication in metal easy and direct.
What's the print bed size?The print bed currently allows for prints up to 2.3 inches x 2.3 inches x 2.3 inches (6 cm x 6 cm x 6 cm) in size. The movement resolution is up to 1600 steps/mm.
How does the clay become metal?The device prints with a commercially available jewelry product known as "metal clay." This material is a pre-mixed emulsion of metal particles in a water soluble organic binder. When heated in a kiln (600˚C-900˚C) the binder burns away as the metal particles fuse together.
Where can I buy materials for the printer?I have been purchasing various metal clay materials online from Amazon and also through e-bay. The Mini Metal Maker requires the clay to be precisely mixed to a special consistency. I will provide pre-mixed syringes of clay along with the parts and software for the MiniMetalMaker.
Can I use it with other clays, or just metal clay?The mini metal maker will work for most water soluble clay or ceramic type materials if the consistency of the material is properly mixed. Refining this mixing process for each of the available types of clay is an important part of the research and development we are currently completing. Since the device extrudes from commercially available syringes, it is entirely possible for users to develop their own clay blends. We will make pre-mixed clays of different varieties available for sale along with the Mini Metal Maker.
How big is the printer?Our current printer measures 16 inches (41 cm) tall, 7 inches (18 cm) wide, and 12 inches (30 cm) deep. The new prototype will be slightly deeper in order to accommodate bed motion for two heads in place of just one.
Will it work with Windows 8? How about Macintosh?Yes, and Yes. The core computer for the Mini Metal Maker is an Arduino Duo running modified Sprinter-based open source firmware. We are developing a cross-platform work environment for loading your objects into the printer.
Do you always need a computer to print?No. It will be able to print directly from SD cards. Our current prototype requires a connection to a computer, but we are designing the production model to print directly from a compact flash chip that is inserted into the machine.
Does it work with a USB port?Yes it does. It just has a standard printer-type USB cord that you could pull out of the back of your normal printer and connect to this printer.
Does it cause indoor air pollution or health problems for users?No. The Mini Metal Maker does not cause any fumes or air pollution. The clay is water based and non-toxic, as its original purpose was for sculpting by hand. Also, the entire machine operates at room temperature because it does not have to melt plastic. You will need to purchase a small *kiln, however, in order to fire the objects.
*Kilns of any sort should be located in a well ventilated area away, often in a garage or a covered outdoor work area.
David Hartkop - Project Creator
Ben Aiken - Software Engineer