‘Anti-gravity’ 3D printer creates metal constructions in mid-air
There are many different 3D printers all around the world and almost every week you can find some news about new 3D printer models or future prototypes. Let’s take a look at a freely articulating 3D printer developed by Joris Laarman Lab in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC).
Technologies used in this 3d printer definitely provide a radically new 3D printing method suitable for irregular or non-horizontal surfaces. The first generation of the 3d printer allowed printing models by extruding a special fast-curing resin with a multi-jointed robotic arm. Recently the designer has unveiled his latest breakthrough which is called MX3D-Metal and can print lines of steel, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze or copper “in mid-air.” The printer was already presented at Fabricate 2014 conference and soon (in May 2014) it could be seen in Friedman Benda gallery, New York.
Laarman shared some more information about his approach in 3D printing. He told that it all was started in Amsterdam-based lab, so called an experimental playground, where engineers, craftsmen can apply new technologies in the field of art and design. They usually start working on a new project on the concept “what if..?” trying to combine different technologies and see start figuring out how to make something new. Over the years the lab has worked together with many different people. It was professionals and students who gather together to develop new concepts for the digital fabrication revolution. Recently the technical side of the lab is supported by Autodesk.
Laarman says the basic idea of the 3D printer is very simple “An advanced welding torch on a robot arm that communicates and is controlled by smart software. The research has basically been to collect a massive amount of data and experience by testing and testing for months and months. It’s figuring out the right parameters until stuff actually works. The combination robot/welding is driven by different types of software that work closely together. This will eventually end up in a user-friendly interface that allows the user to print directly from CAD”.
Currently the lab is developing print heads for different kind of metals. Every metal needs a different approach, for example Aluminum melts very different from stainless steel. Right now the print heads vary from 5mm to about 10mm lines in steel and stainless steel. Also different strategies are used for printing 3D ‘lines’. For example 3d printing process of horizontal, vertical or spiraling lines depends on pulse time, pause-time, layer height or tool orientation. Currently Laarman together with Autodesk is working on a new 3D printing tool or consumers and professional workshops.