Sep 24, 2014 | By Alec

As most of you will doubtlessly know, the 3D printing consumer market is still absolutely dominated by plastic extrusion printers. It is one of the few 3D printing methods that has sufficiently come down in price to become interesting to hobbyists and small businesses. In contrast, ceramic and especially metal 3D printing technology is still far too expensive to appeal to private consumers.

That could be changing in the near future, however, especially in regards to that latter printing material. For an interesting prototype that uses various types of metal was unveiled at the 2014 Maker's Faire in Queens, New York, which was held last weekend. There, the startup business Monolith Studio revealed their Orbit 1, a practical device that seeks to make metal printing available to a wider consumer public. The guys behind Monolith have supposedly said they want to start a Kickstarter campaign in early 2015 to enable production, and are aiming at a market price of some $3000 to $4000.

How? Well, its secret is that isn't quite a 3D printer, but it is a wonderful addition to it. The Orbit 1 is a metal coating device, that is capable of coating ABS plastic objects in various metallic finishes. The prototype is currently capable of wrapping ABS in four different metal coatings: copper, nickel, lead and gold. At the Maker Faire, Monolith revealed printed objects first need to be smoothed via a vapor method, which will allow a base coating to properly set. The object of your choosing will them be immersed in a liquid metal goo. During that process, a number of metal layers – along with a soup of chemicals – are built up on the object until the desired thickness is achieved.

It's thus not quite a 3D metal printer, but the idea is that it will make metallic objects available to a wider audience without the need for exorbitant investments. The Orbit one will be controlled with a detailed app that caters to both beginners and experts. In its Smart mode, the ideal settings for each metal will be recommended, while Expert Mode will allow the users to work with all variables themselves. The app will also keep track of the materials used and the immersion time necessary.

This cool product looks to be set to vastly increase the number of options open to casual 3D printers. Rather than printing prototypes of jewellery (or other metallic objects), this desktop metal plating device will allow you to actually create objects that also have the appearance you desire.

Images: Monolith Studio

Furthermore, while testing focussed on objects printed in ABS material, the finished Orbit 1 coater should work on just about any material. Furthermore, as the metal coatings conduct electricity, it could theoretically also be used to develop your very own electronics. Potentially, it's thus a really convenient addition to any printing enthusiast's technological arsenal. Let's just hope that it will be as affordable as the guys from Monolith claim.

Be sure to check out this useful video on the Orbit 1:

Posted in 3D Printer Accessories

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Javier Gonzalez wrote at 5/11/2016 3:36:04 AM:

How can I buy one????

Lance@3d printed objects wrote at 12/18/2014 4:06:21 PM:

Metalic type of 3d printing products and it gives more life. I couldn't imagine it will be like this .

Ravens wrote at 9/25/2014 5:01:35 PM:

3k for this... it better has lifetime chemical covered. and silver and gold included in the kit. or else. eit's really expensive wrote at 9/25/2014 2:16:55 AM:

This looks like a very good usage case for conductive filament. :) Print a carbon conductive object, then just attach electrode to the printed object, immerse in the copper sulfate solution, and plate away!

Perry Engel wrote at 9/24/2014 7:56:57 PM:

I have to agree with michaelc, electroplating/electroforming is basically a transformer, a diode a plate (copper for example) copper sulfate solution and a crockpot. 3-4 k is a very big markup.

Julia wrote at 9/24/2014 7:55:43 PM:

What michaelc said. If this machine/system were to simplify the process and/or make it less messy etc. then it would be worth a modest premium, but it certainly does not seem to bring $4K worth of value over existing solutions.

michaelc wrote at 9/24/2014 7:30:36 PM:

So it is an electroplating machine, that does not even do the conductive coating automatically. Why exactly is this worth $4K? You can easily get all the materials and tools to do this yourself now for less than $300. Electroplating is not new or exotic. Even plating non conductive things is old; Remember bronzed baby shoes?

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