Technical progress in the open-source self replicating rapid prototyper ( RepRap) community has enabled a distributed form of additive manufacturing to expand rapidly using polymer-based materials. However, the lack of an open-source metal alternative and the high capital costs and slow throughput of proprietary commercialized metal 3-D printers has severely restricted their deployment. The applications of commercialized metal 3-D printers are limited to only rapid prototyping and expensive finished products.
VIDEO: Open-source 3D metal printer (detail)
VIDEO: Open-source 3D metal printer (short)
This severely restricts the access of the technology for small and medium enterprises, the developing world and for use in laboratories. This paper reports on the development of a <$2000 open-source metal 3-D printer. The metal 3-D printer is controlled with an open-source micro-controller and is a combination of a low-cost commercial gas-metal MIG welder and a derivative of the Rostock, a deltabot RepRap. The bill of materials, electrical and mechanical design schematics, and basic construction and operating procedures are provided. A preliminary technical analysis of the properties of the 3-D printer and the resultant steel products are performed. The results of printing customized functional metal parts are discussed and conclusions are drawn about the potential for the technology and the future work necessary for the mass distribution of this technology.
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