Metal 3-D Printer v1.0

by jpearce, published

Metal 3-D Printer v1.0 by jpearce Dec 6, 2013
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The Metal Delta RepRap v1 uses a upside down Rostock-like stage to move a substrate under a MIG welder. We have demonstrated steel printing using standard welding wire. For details see: G.C. Anzalone, C. Zhang, B. Wijnen, P. G. Sanders and J.M. Pearce, œLow-Cost Open-Source 3-D Metal Printing, IEEE Access (in press). DOI: 10.1109/ACCESS.2013.2293018 open access preprint

How to build, BOM, Instructions - the build is pretty easy by RepRap standards - less than a day when you have the full BOM. Total cost, including the welder is <$1200.

This component is part of an open source lab library, by the Michigan Tech's Open Sustainability Technology Research Group.

For similar see the Open-Source Lab How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs


How to build, BOM, Instructions - the build is pretty easy by RepRap standards - less than a day when you have the full BOM. Total cost, including the welder is <$1200.

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For the most up to date see: Yuenyong Nilsiam, Amberlee Haselhuhn, Bas Wijnen, Paul Sanders, & Joshua M. Pearce. Integrated Voltage - Current Monitoring and Control of Gas Metal Arc Weld Magnetic Ball-Jointed Open Source 3-D Printer.Machines 3(4), 339-351 (2015). doi:10.3390/machines3040339 -- Full source: http://www.appropedia.org/Integrated_Voltage%E2%80%94Current_Monitoring_and_Control_of_Gas_Metal_Arc_Weld_Magnetic_Ball-Jointed_Open_Source_3-D_Printer

did you guys 'build' a small thing or just lay a series of tacks ?

We have built lots of things -- most wallow in peer review - but if you click on the paper we did an example sprocket. Hopefully we will be able to release far more shortly in both steel and aluminium.

Very Nice, I've been wanting to make a project like this for a while now, i guess you beat me to it.

but to save on gas costs, have you considered enclosing the whole build machine in a tight gas tent (similar to the Replicator 2x, only air tight or close to it) then you can purge it of air and fill with CO2 or Argon/CO2 mix and not need any more gas for the duration of the print. then your gas use will be based on number of prints instead of volume of metal your printing out. also, rig up a shielded air purifier/Filter system in the enclosure to clean out the weld fumes. a simple HEPA filter would do, that's what we use for welding fumes where i work.
Also, does your system control the welders settings on the fly or is it fixed for the whole print?

very interesting! would love to see some parts

This is a great proof of concept. Resolution could be improved by using something more like a jewelry welder ($120 and up on eBay, although I'm not sure if they make jewelry welders that can do continuous beads instead of tack welds). Operating cost is the next big issue, since I imagine the current setup could run through a small 40 ft^3 tank in a couple hours. At ~$30/refill, that'd add up quickly. A larger tank would help, but Hackaday comments are brimming with other suggestions:

forums dot reprap dot org
General discussions
msg 276776
Title DIY $1500 Metal Printer

Lets see some "prints" please

Got a link for people outside a university?

If you scroll down you should be able to read this no matter where you are from for no charge. https://www.academia.edu/5327317/A_Low-Cost_Open-Source_Metal_3-D_Printer

Very cool project! Would love to see this take off.

  • I wonder if you could enclose the build environment and fill it with shielding gas for cleaner results? (or at least capture the excess from the welder, since the argon, denser than air, should "fill" a cup around the print somewhat...)
  • I wonder if you could get better control of the melt zone (and thus cooling) by pulsing the current and feed like many TIG machines/operators do when using thin walled tubing?

Pulse controllers are available for MIG as well as TIG. Most often used for aluminum welding, but also very useful for steel. Only draw back is that they are usually built into the wirefeeder itself, meaning you buy another even more expensive wirefeeder. They work great though.

A lot of MIG welders have an automatic setting now, My brother's Miller has this, you set the dial according to the size of wire and thickness of steel you're using, and the machine does the rest; I suspect he's using something similar in his setup.

The only major hurdle to such a setup is heat; You can only lay so much bead before you have to pause to let the machine cool. I would suspect that prints have to be small, or there are periodic pauses every other layer to allow the welder and tip to cool. You also need to periodically clear the tip of slag so it doesn't short out.

There are a lot of technical hurdles to overcome when doing this; I'm just excited someone is giving it a shot.

Sweet! A video would be awesome!

I had a similar idea about a year ago, I think your implementation is better than the one I was considering.

What sort of material do you use for a build plate? I considered copper plate, but I didn't think the weld would stick very well (considering many backing plates for plug welds are copper)

Very cool project!

Thanks! -- we are using scrap steel plates -- still need to find optimum.

Thanks for the feedback.
Just a tip; a lot of the welders in my area use straight CO2 in their welders rather than argon/CO2 mix, it's cheaper and works just as well to keep clean welds; may want to give it a shot.