Jul 4, 2016 | By Alec

There comes a time in every maker’s life when he jealously looks at metal 3D printers. For while desktop FDM 3D printers are fun and potent tools, they will probably never rival the production quality or usefulness of metal 3D printing. While the immense costs associated with metal 3D printers will put them out of reach for most users, two Idaho-based makers from 3DTOPO remind us that there’s more than way to make custom metal structures. Using a 3D printed lost shell sand casting technique, they have successfully made a detailed copper version of the popular 3D printable Bearded Yell statue.

This amazing achievement was realized by Jeshua Lacock and Brandon Overlie from 3DTOPO. Based in Idaho, they have previously worked on numerous cool 3D printing projects, like this fantastic 3D printed perpetual machine. Metal 3D printing has also been on the 3DTOPO agenda for long time, though not all of their metal projects were as successful. “Our primary interest is DIY metal casts directly from 3D prints. We love/build/use CNC machines, 3D printers, recycling, furnaces mixed with sand and investment casting,” they say. A very dangerous technique, but very potent when combined with 3D printed molds.

This was again emphasized by their latest project, in which Lacock and Overlie have successfully managed to use the 3D printed lost shell sand casting technique to produce the cool statue visible above. To test the technique, the makers chose the model of the Bearded Yell, a cool and popular 3D printable fantasy-style dwarf character by Australian maker bendansie. You can find it on Thingiverse here.

This is actually the second time they tried, and their previous attempt showcased just how dangerous metal casting can be. “Our first attempt didn’t have a place for the gas to escape when we poured, and it shot a jet straight outta here like a bottle rocket. That did not allow the metal to fill,” Lacock explained. And as they are working with molten copper that you want to avoid at all costs, things could get ugly. “Fire, molten metal, high power and high temperatures are potentially extremely dangerous. This time, we are going to have a place to pour and a place for the gas to come out,” he added. What’s more, they settled for a bottom-feeding pouring technique, as it makes it easier for the gas to escape.

But the entire process begins just like any other 3D printing project, as the makers first 3D printed the Bearded Yell model in PLA with a 0 percent infill – making it a shell only. To achieve the desired effect, the PLA print was encased in a greensand-filled wooden container. This sand, a casting sand, was really packed in tight for the best effect. The end of the 3D print itself was visible at the bottom, through which the molten copper can be poured.

The guys subsequently heated up copper in an induction furnace and – completely protected by heat-resistant clothing – poured it into the mold in a spectacular and fiery display. It completely justifies their warning not to try this at home without the proper knowledge and equipment. Check it out below.

But in this case, the results were definitely worth the effort. After letting the model cool, the guys removed the print to reveal a fantastically detailed Bearded Yell model. Who says you need to spend thousands on a metal 3D printer?



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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