Mar. 18, 2015 | By Alec

Even at 85% metal, the results look great.

Remember the promising Filamet 3D printer metal filament by The Virtual Foundry? In late February of this year, founder Bradley Wood launched a Kickstarter campaign for this very interesting filament that is essentially a mixture of PLA and up to 85% metal. Because of its unique properties, Filamet can turn any ordinary FDM 3D printer into a machine capable of making items in bronze, brass and copper.

Here is a good news from The Virtual Foundry: Today Wood has just revealed a whole new interesting technique that could turn Filamet objects into 99.9% metal structures.

If they reach that number with an ordinary FDM 3D printer, that would be truly amazing as it could mean that metal 3D printing really becomes available to a wide audience. Of course Filamet is about 15% PLA, but they have developed a remarkably easy way of removing that plastic binding from the object without too much damage to your designs. The key is a product that was popular in the 1990s: Precious Metal Clay, which could simply be modelled into shapes by hand and fired up in a kiln to gain a metal appearance.

"One product that we've worked on since the beginning 3 years ago, is a 3D printable filament that behaves like Precious Metal Clay (PMC). In fact, at one point we even did some prototyping on a printer that would print with PMC," Wood explains to us, stating that they since decided it was not a viable option as performance was too inconsistent. Since developing Filamet, however, Wood and company discovered that it shares many of the same properties and behaves exactly the same when introduced to high temperatures.

Filamet results after sintering: 99,5% metal, no PLA.

"You can create your 3D print the way you always do with Filamet, but you now have one more option on how to process it. After much testing and tweaking, we’ve gotten Filamet to behave almost the same as Precious Metal Clays. So, after prepping the print, you put it in a kiln to burn off the PLA and sinter the copper powders," he says. The result won’t be a truly solid copper product (hence 99.9% rather than a hundred) as it’s the copper particles in the filament are just sintered together.

While this extra process does require you to get a small kiln, it's an extra step that provides you with a large number of new options. "With this innovation, we feel that we may have almost attained the Holy Grail of 3d printing; pure metal prints from existing desktop hardware. I have little doubt that this concept will become mainstream very rapidly. It’s quick, it’s painless, and most importantly it leaves you with a 3d printed object made entire of metal," Wood says. Of course, there is some shrinking involved and creates products that are partially porous (which is simply the nature of sintering), but the results are aesthetically very pleasing.

With his Kickstarter campaign, Wood and company sought to raise enough funds to bring their Filamet into production. They have so far managed to raise just under $18,000, a bit short of their intended goal of $25,000. This new property of Filamet definitely opens the door for so many new 3D printing applications and will doubtlessly interest a lot of people. Will it be enough to push this Kickstarter to the $25,000 goal? Go here for more information on pledging and the rewards you can for backing Filamet. 



Posted in 3D Printing Materials


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