Jan 16, 2018 | By Julia

Affordable metal 3D printing may be here sooner than we thought, thanks to a new Washington-based company by the name of Iro3d. Announced earlier this week, the American startup has gone public with a beta version of their metal printer priced at $5000. Although that may sound like a lot when plenty of desktop plastic printers are available on the market for under $200 nowadays, a retail price of $5000 is still virtually unheard of in the realm of 3D printed metal.

Before you get your credit card out, however, it’s worth taking a closer look at the fine print. While Iro3d’s new system is certainly capable of 3D printing good quality metal, specifically steel, the printer doesn’t produce a fully formed, solid object. Rather, it prepares a metal container, or crucible, out of sand and powdered metal. From there, the user places the container in a kiln. Only after an intensive firing process does a solid steel object get produced.

Putting these extra steps aside for a moment, it’s worth noting that Iro3d’s printer is arguably simpler than a conventional plastic printer in some key ways. The system does away with fans, heat beds, and hot ends, for instance, instead relying on a head to pick up a container, and an auger to deposit it. Here, sand acts as the support material, holding the object in place until it solidifies. Two sand-based containers correspond to two different granularities of metal powder: a finer powder for surfaces visible on the outside of the print, and a rougher powder for interior fill.

For now, Ir03d is selling both metal and support powders for about $5 a pound. Minimum layer thickness measures up at 0.3mm, while the system’s “pourer” (or hot end equivalent) is 1mm in diameter. Approximate print time is listed at 24 hours. A few tech-savvy onlookers have noted that replicating the Iro3d system with standard 3D printing gear seems fairly doable, especially for those with an auger set up for paste extrusion. Until some of those DIY attempts start cropping up though, what you see is what you get.

For now, another catch is that the printer only ships to buyers in the Seattle, Washington area, but if sales are strong, it’s probably safe to bet that Iro3d will be keen to expand their market sooner versus later. A full list of specs as well as progress updates can be found on the startup’s website and Facebook page.



Posted in 3D Printer



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Sergey wrote at 10/24/2018 7:43:55 PM:

Julia, thanks for the article. A lot had happened since you wrote it. Now the printer is in production, and available for customer all over the world :-)

Dean wrote at 1/17/2018 5:21:37 AM:

Perfect except it should be $500, not $5000! (BTW: I can build the same thing for $500)

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