Feb 26, 2016 | By Andre

As someone that works in the 3D printing service sector during part of my week, I can’t tell you how many times I've gotten requests to 3D print metal parts. And why shouldn't that be the case? Humanity’s mastery of metal through the ages, whether in bronze, iron, or steel has proven essential in the forging of history's great empires. Jared Diamond, the acclaimed non-fiction author didn’t call his Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs and Wood after all.

So when responding to those curious about 3D printing in metal I typically reply that yes, it is possible, but it’ll cost you. Shapeways offers a range of metal 3D printing options on a small scale and then there are companies like ExOne that can produce big metal parts. But the reality is, 3D printing out of metal has remained something of a pipe dream for the regular Jane.

It now appears that NVbots, a 3D printing startup that made waves with their Fundable crowdfunding campaign a few years ago, is giving it their all to increase access to faster and more affordable 3D metal printing.

And while early samples of their pre-alpha 3D metal printer look strikingly like the results of the familiar FDM extrusion based 3D printing process, NVbots CEO AJ Perez suggests that their approach is unique and not just a cheaper, faster version of what’s out there today. NVbots Chief Research Officer Paul Burke has even stated they’re “breaking entirely new ground by bringing together a powerful combination of patented technology, with a level of 3D printing and metallurgy expertise unmatched in the industry”.

Fortunately, their 3D metal printer, marketed as being capable of producing parts 10x faster than the SLS metal units on out there today isn’t meant to be a gimmick. Perez says that “we are solving the toughest problems in additional markets, such as the metal castings sector, which will have a significant impact on medical, automotive and aerospace industries, among others.”

The tremendous amount of heat necessary to 3D print with metal has always hindered adoption of 3D metal printing on any large scale. Now, this company's still relatively secretive system promises to be able to 3D print up to 21 different metals (even combining different metals for the same job) in a manner that was summarized both as using electricity to melt metal wire; and also as a being comparable to high-precision welding.

An exciting part of NVbots recent announcement of their metal 3D printer is that they’re now accepting applications to the Alpha Tester program for their 3D Printer. This means that, if selected, you should gain access to experiment and test their metal 3D printer in some yet-to-be-determined capacity.

Since details remain scarce and the quality of the 3D printed examples remain somewhat rudimentary in nature, it’s possible that we won’t hear too much more from NVbots and their metal 3D printer until the Alpha program wraps up so why not take this unique opportunity to sign up for what might be a game-changing approach to multi-material 3D printing.

And while details are limited for the time being, Perez admits the excitement of what NVBots is working on comes from the longer term promise. Who knows, maybe it’ll only be another 50 years or so when one of Jared Diamond’s sons wins their very own Pulitzer for their masterwork, 3D Printed Guns, Germs, and Steel.



Posted in 3D Printer



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