July 27, 2015 | By Alec

While desktop FDM 3D printers are steadily going down in price and becoming more available than ever, many experienced users are still impatiently glancing over at the industrial-quality (and priced) 3D printers out there. Fortunately, a new Japanese 3D printer could be just what those of us with limited budgets are looking for. For Japanese printer manufacturer Mutoh is about to unveil the Value Arc MA5000-S1 3D printer, which is much more affordable than other metal 3D printers for its ability to use arc welding, rather than laser-based, technology.

This very promising 3D printer has been developed by Mutoh Industries in collaboration with Hiroyuki Sasahara, who is an associate professor at the Division of Advanced Mechanical Systems Engineering of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Mutoh Industries, incidentally, you might know as a Japanese manufacturer of large-scale inkjet printers who heavily collaborates with the National University Corporation Tokyo.

That they would venture into the world of 3D printing is thus not particularly surprising, but the path they have chosen is. For as you might know, virtually all metal 3D printers out there rely on either laser or electron beam technology to ‘weld’ metal particles together. That equipment is very expensive, while there isn’t a lot of variety in the available powders and you need to be well-trained to operate one of these machines. Mutoh Industries, therefore, has decided to go down a more commercially interesting path, choosing to rely on the much more affordable arc welding technology.

Some 3D printed examples, before and after post-print processing.

Arc welding, of course, is a very very common technique for working with metal, and essentially relies on the creation of an electric arc between an electrode and the material itself. Melting the metals, they become fused together – perfect for large sheets of metal, but not really suitable for metal 3D printing. Until now, that is. According to Mutoh, their Value Arc MA5000-S1 3D printer can be used to 3D print part of up to 500x500x500 mm, though their 3D printer can also be used to add finishing touches on existing parts (or be used as a thickener or repair instrument). Depending on the materials used and the size of the project, it can print at about 100~500mL per hour. What’s more, the finished parts are promised to be very high in strength and durable, as you would expect from a welding job.

What’s more, the material options and costs are far more interesting to small scale users. In their press release, Mutoh argues that materials are expected to cost only a tenth of other metal printing alternatives, with materials also being far more widely available. It can also be used for a lot more applications, as the data and strength characteristics are well known. They further argue that metal wires are far more easier to worth with, while other material options such as magnesium wires are also useable and safe to work with. Finally, their arc welding technology is far easier to use and replace than that bothersome powder.

The Japanese manufacturers are therefore seeing their machine as a perfect option for the manufacture of high quality, low volume production. Perfect, in short, for users looking for efficient, quick and easy molding of parts, that only need a little post-processing work when compared to large scale metal welding options. After all, nothing needs to be cut out of large sheets of metal. They further add that it’s a perfect option for repairing and renewing existing edges on objects such as molds.

Really the only downside of this machine is that its minimum printing thickness is 3 mm wide and about 1 mm high, therefore making it impossible to make very small and detailed parts with this 3D printer. Its manufacturers therefore suggest using the Value Arc MA5000-S1 3D printer as a machine for developing ‘near net shape’ objects that need to be further processed by hands through cutting and polishing. While that is a bit of a downside to this machine, it does have one other advantage: costing only 30 million Yen (without taxes), or approximately $240,000, it will definitely catch the eye of producers everywhere. The machine has just been released this week, so check out the manufacturer’s website for more information.



Posted in 3D Printers



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