MIT has researchers uses liquid metal which allows for extremely fast printing. The process can produce large aluminum components in minutes, whereas many pre-existing techniques would take hours to complete the same structure. The technology has already been used to create table legs, chair frames and related furniture pieces.
This is called liquid metal printing (LMP) and involves directing molten aluminum along a predetermined path onto a bed of tiny glass beads. These beads are quickly solidified and transformed into a 3D structure. The researchers say the new process is at least ten times faster than comparable metal fabrication methods.
However, there is one major caveat. This process sacrifices resolution for speed and scale. Therefore, the researchers used it to create low-resolution objects such as chair legs rather than complex parts with complex geometries. The MIT researchers say this trade-off makes the technology useful for creating “components of larger structures” that still don’t require extremely fine details. This includes furniture parts, as mentioned above, but also components for construction and industrial design.
Despite the reduced resolution, parts made using LMP are still durable and can withstand post-printing processes such as drilling and drilling. The people behind the technology say the structures are more durable than those built by wire-arc additive manufacturing, a metal-printing method that previously existed. This is because LMP keeps the material in a molten state throughout the process, reducing the chance of cracking and warping.
The researchers recommend combining LMP with other methods in work that requires both speed and high resolution. “Most of our built world—things around us like tables, chairs, and buildings—don’t require very high resolution,” says Skylar Tibbits, lead author of the paper introducing the project.
It should also be noted that this printing method does not require aluminum. Can work with other metals. The researchers chose aluminum because of its popularity in construction and because it can be easily recycled.
The people behind this technology hope to replicate the concept to improve heat consistency, prevent sticking and allow greater control over molten metal. The team has issues with larger nozzle diameters causing irregular prints, which is something that needs to be worked out. Tibbits said the method could eventually be a “game changer in metal fabrication.”
Despite being somewhat out of favor in the commercial space, 3D printing has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Researchers have developed a small 3D printer to repair and clean damaged tissues. Scientists too from the human heart.