Oct 26, 2015 | By Tess

Bill Struve, the inventor of Bronze Clay and the founder of Metal Adventures, has recently broken into the world of 3D printing with the launch of a kickstarter for his new product: the 3DMetalCreator.

Bill Struve

Struve, a chemist based in Wilmington, North Carolina, was inspired to start developing metal clays when his wife, Lacey Ann, introduced him to silver metal clay in 2006, which she was using for her artworks. Struve set out to make more materials for his wife and the metal clay artistic community to work with and by 2008 had successfully developed both BronzClay and CopprClay. When Bill Struve became aware of the potentials of 3D printing he started looking for a way to use his metal clays with a 3D printer, and purchased an UP! 3D printer. He faced difficulty, however, in 3D printing the metal clays so developed a slightly adjusted material that could accommodate an extruder: metal paste.

Metal paste is made up of metal particles that are mixed with a binder, water, and other materials. Consistency-wise it is softer than metal clay, allowing for it to be worked on and modified with hand tools even after it has dried. It is during the firing process (either by kiln or torch) that the metal particles join together as the binding agent burns away, resulting in a finished product that is solid metal and can be finished using traditional metal working processes such as filing, drilling, polishing, welding, etc.

Struve’s metal paste, the BRONZpaste3D, can be used with the Mini Metal Maker, which was created by David Hartkop, as the two of them worked together to develop a 3D printable metal clay material. The Mini Metal Maker will be launched imminently, and will retail for about $1,500. Struve chose to work with bronze (his bronze is an alloy of 90% copper and 10% tin) because of its strength and corrosion resistance, as well as its beautiful color.

Considering that many of the people using Struve’s metal clays in their work were artists primarily interested in handcrafting items, Struve began to think of a way for his metal clays to be extruded by hand. He explains, “Most of the people using our clay want to create items by hand in their home studios and workshops. 3D printing, on the other hand, has a very steep learning curve that requires the use of 3D design software, and a detailed consideration of how to print. Could I develop a tool to allow the bronze paste-filled cartridges to be used by hand?”

After several different configurations, Struve finally succeeded in creating a manually operated tool that allowed for his metal paste to be extruded in order to make 3D metal objects. The 3DMetalCreator consists of a small CO2 tank fitted with a regulator, which is responsible for providing the energy behind the extrusion, a pneumatic foot operated valve to start and stops the extrusion, and the metal paste cartridge which can be fitted with several different nozzles, and can be used like a pen. It is this current configuration that is featured in Struve’s kickstarter campaign.

The 3DMetalCreator has been extensively beta tested with many satisfied results and encouraging suggestions that Struve will work on, such as the development of a silver metal paste, and finding a way to accommodate the fact that CO2 canisters cannot be shipped internationally.

The 3DMetalCreator’s kickstarter campaign will be funded on November 12th, 2015 as they have already surpassed their goal of $9,400. Rewards include the 3DMetalCreator with CO2 tank (only currently shippable to the U.S. and Canada), cartridges of BRONZpaste3D (50gm each), various extruding nozzles, and instructions to create the metal Eiffel Tower sculpture. For a pledge of over $5,500, in addition to five 3DMetalCreators, and several cartridges, Bill Struve will fly to any location and teach a five-day course on metal clays, pastes, and the 3DMetalCreator. Early-bird rewards are expected to ship in time for the holiday season. Once the kickstarter campaign has ended, the 3DMetalCreator will be available online through Cool Tools.

Struve, being an inventor, has continued to work on his creation, finding further ways to improve and develop it. He is reportedly working on an attachment to be added to the metal paste cartridge that will allow for the clay to dry after it had been extruded, allowing for the artist or maker to draw vertically.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer

 

 

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