Metal-based additive manufacturing (AM) news seems to be pretty hot right now. Researchers are no doubt seeking new ways to tap into metal 3D printing production that has been embraced by companies for end-use parts and products. Just a couple weeks ago we brought you the story about NC State’s advances in metal AM. Today we have news about a desktop metal AM system.
Hailing from South Africa, i AM 3D has launched an Indiegogo campaign to complete development of a metal-based 3D printer. Unlike other metal systems that sinter powdered materials, i AM 3D aims to use liquid metal inks. Plans are underway to fuel the new AM system with gold, palladium, platinum, titanium, aluminum and composite alloys.
The system works by depositing a layer of metal ink in the desired shape, then subjecting that layer to a sintering process to harden the material. The team behind i AM 3D claims the process works at very low temperatures, and requires a smaller amount of materials than other metal AM processes. Without requiring a huge bed of metal powder to build objects, the entire 3D printer can be scaled down to desktop size. Current dimensions are 600 x 400 x 480 mm (23.6 x 15.7 x 18.9 in.).
I can’t speculate too much on how much an i AM 3D printer will eventually cost, assuming it receives funding. This particular crowd funding drive doesn’t offer a new 3D printer for backers. Instead, backers can choose an image that will be engraved into the system when it goes into production, making this more of a true donation. It at least seems reasonable to assume that a desktop sized system will be priced to be attractive for small businesses.
Below you’ll find a short video featuring the i AM 3D prototype.