The Mini Metal Maker, currently featured on Indiegogo, is a 3D printer that is bringing together DIY technology and art. The printer can print objects using precious metal clay, and once air-dry, can be fired in a kiln to produce solid metal objects of varying style and size.
They are now seeking crowd-funding support to make the 3D printer market ready.
“Our goal is to create a product that is ready for the market in three different forms: • A downloadable product, including 3D build files and DIY instructions. • Kits containing the hardware, software, and assembly instructions. • Fully finished and calibrated machines with software installed.”
The Mini Metal Maker is ideal for anyone who will benefit from small detailed metal objects, like rings, gem settings, or specialised machine parts, making the printer perfect for Jewellery makers and design engineers especially. Standing at 16″ tall, 7″ wide and 12″deep the printer can be easily transported, and in the future the printer will be slightly deeper to enable an extra head to be added for use of additional metal clays and other suitable materials.
The print bed allows for a 2.3″ x 2.3″ x 2.3″ print, and the resolution is at 1600 steps/mm. The team is working on the improvement of the extruder. It currently traces at approximately 0.5mm, they hope to eventually reduce it to 200 microns.
The device uses “precious metal clay” and work is being done to improve the recipe for the five different clay types: copper, bronze, steel, silver and gold.
The printer will work using either Windows 8 or Mac and is controlled through an Arduino Duo using modified Sprinter-based open source firmware. Progress is ongoing on the development of a SD card that you can print directly from, enabling the printer to eventually stand-alone without the need for a computer if desired.
The $10,000 goal will come in handy for the developments mentioned above, and other activities that the team are hoping any contributions will fund are:
“Optimize the integrated motor carriage design so that it can be easily printed on low-cost printers such as the MakerBot and RepRap. Refine custom firmware for the printer to further optimize printing for clay. Create the Mini Metal Forge software environment in order to foster a good user experience, particularly for the non-technical craftsperson, Work with industrial partners to tool up for production of the machine with injection molding.”
Even if the team don’t succeed in their $10,000 target, they will carry on with the project and developments regardless. Perks for contribution run from $5, for a thank you and mention on their website, up to $1,500, for a Deluxe Mini Metal Maker, 3 tubes of metal clay, a propane torch head, a firing pot and a t-shirt.
The team label the Mini Metal Maker as “a game-changer in the world of do-it-yourself 3D printing,” and to a degree I have to concur. This opens up endless possibilities for engineers and artists alike in the processing of customisable metal items, without the expensive fabrication processes normally needed.
However, I think they still have a way to go. The idea is good, but the results so far are still a little crude. This is something that will inevitably improve if they succeed in the developments they have planned, and it is nice to see the advancements in metal printing being used to create something practical and aesthetic.