The Virtual Foundry Company has developed a hybrid filament between metal and thermoplastic materials in order to make metal’s 3D printing more accessible to the community; Filamet ™, the 3D printing filament allows you create high-quality metal objects from any conventional desktop printer.
3D printing metals requires high-end printers that are not available to enthusiasts (unless it was an enthusiast with a lot of money, like Batman) as them consume very expensive supplies and require special techniques like metal melted by laser, but also takes a print time of not less than 24 and 48 hours. That’s why most of us relates the use of 3D printing metals with large corporations. Until now.
Recently, a team conformed by the certified master goldsmith and master jeweler William Howard, the blacksmith and expert in powder metallurgy with experience in extruders Glenn Prescott, and the software architect and project manager Brad Woods, achieved bring to market an accessible alternative to users like you or I can print parts of metallic finish. Using the products and processes that The Virtual Foundry offers to its customers, any user with a desktop 3D printer can print parts of pure metal at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the current average time. This company based in Wisconsin began its investigation long before 3D printing became a viable option. After some early successes with high levels of metal infusions, they were able to produce about 20 pounds of what is now called Filamet™.
Since then, the only challenge left was the extrusion of this material in compatible filament form with standard 3D printers; since there wasn’t really any product like this on the market, they set out to design its own system, but first decided to go with crowfounding strategy.
To test their project, The Virtual Foundry printed all their filament prototypes for a kickstarter campaign in a Printrbot Simple® (the original plywood and zip-tie version). Final Articles obviously do not contain all the properties of a pure molten metal sculpture, however, the most important properties such as appearance, texture and density are successfully remained.
“The products we are presenting here are our first foray into a commercial solution to an economical method of creating metallic elements in a desktop 3D printer”
The only arrangement that distinguishes printing with Filamet from printing with materials such as PLA and ABS is the print speed. This is logically explained if you pay attention to the physical properties of the filament: Filamet weighs about 4 times the equivalent volume of the PLA (about 4.2gr / cm3, while the PLA usually weighs 1.1gr / cm3) so your printer will take more time and energy to complete a piece. Either way, this is only a recommendation for the user to achieve an optimum familiarization with the material from the beginning, then you can increase print speeds depending on the control of the technique.
Although the recommendations of its creators are simply summarized in setting the nozzle temperature to 205 C and set heated bed (optional) to 50 C, there are two ways give finish to your printed pieces with Filamet: Some makers simply print and polish their designs, others use heat to process the binders out of the final print. It results in a metal printing between 85% and 95% or more purity rate no matter what 3D printer you have used. You can even go to the sintering guide to give the desired finish your printed pieces with Filamet from their website
The company continues developing its portfolio of hybrid filaments thanks to the participation of the 181 sponsors from a kickstarter campaign conducted in 2015.
Being objective, this project aims to give the user the opportunity to create all kinds of metal figures with enough quality and purity to be jewelry, without the need for a high-end metals studio at your disposal. Currently the company is in full swing to add to their filaments magnetic and electrical conductive propierties, a new challenge that if achieved would be welcome in the world of manufacturing and machining as it not would only save them time, but also production costs without losing the quality of their creations.
Would you dare to try this type of filaments on your printer?, if you ever do please write about your experience and rate this filament for us.
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