Metal Fuse Deposition 3D printing
In August 2022, I began researching FDM metal printing under Professor Lin Cheng. Additive manufacturing has many benefits over subtractive manufacturing, such as less material waste and the ability to create geometries that subtractive manufacturing struggles with or finds impossible. While plastic 3D printing has become commonplace and affordable, metal printers are still large, expensive, and mostly inaccessible to students. My research project aims to create an affordable, desktop size metal 3D printer that can print multiple materials at once. This consists of two main changes to plastic FDM printers: The addition of a mixer and a different extruder.
Little is known about how metal powders react to binders (what ratio should be used, which binders work best to make a part that will keep its shape), so my next step is to conduct material tests, where I mix different ratios of different binders with stainless steel powder. The extruder above uses a syringe to deposit material and a lead screw controlled by a NEMA 17 stepper motor to advance the syringe plunger. It will move along one axis only, as shown. Once a mixture composition has been selected, the rest of the printer will be developed.
The experimental mixtures will be mixed with a stand mixer. After a material has been determined, I will develop the mixer, which will take a variable number of metal powders and a binder, mix them in the predetermined ratio and feed the resulting mixture to the extruder.
The FlashForge Creator Pro 2
In June 2021, I bought my own 3D printer, the Flashforge Creator Pro 2. I chose it because I had previously worked with the Creator Pro, and enjoyed the hands-on nature of this printer (the main difference between the two is an upgraded screen and the ability to use the two extruders independently. I wrote the following to document my experience with setting up Creator Pro 2 printing a few test prints.