The current norm for most 3D printers at the moment is to use filament, powders or resins to create 3D structures, but the I-AM 3D printer ditches these for liquid metal ink. At the moment the printer is in its prototype stage but what we do know is that it will deposit the metal ink with an inkjet printer head. After the ink is deposited the printer then cures the ink via a laser that is controlled by galvanometer scanners.
George Kriel has experience in mechanics and is the product manager for the I Am printer. Peter brier is another member of the design team with 15 years of experience with electronics and is currently working on 3D printing of food (for a dutch independent research institute), and making open source laser controllers available to everyone.
“We experimented with a lot of ideas and processes to come up with the perfect product(ink) for the application and believe that we now have three precious metal inks (gold, palladium and platinum) for the application process. (patent pending) More inks to follow, Titanium, Aluminum and alloys thereof.” wrote George Kriel.
Apparently most of the hardware, electronics and software of the machine is done and the I-Am printer is functional. The unfinished parts for the printer include the laser and Galvo optics, which have to be purchased together with the correct print head and electronics.
Kriel chose metal ink printing over conventional powder bed metal 3D printers because “with all other 3D metal printers (powder bed) you need a lot of extra material to manufacture (print) a part. Example a powder bed printer with a build volume of 90mm x 90mm you would need 1 kg of metal powder (gold ) to start the process.”
Kriel also believes that the I-AM 3D printer will be one of the first 3D printers to manufacture metal parts that will go into space and may be one of the first printers to get into space itself.
Contributor’s images will be able to be a part of the livery of every machine and the printer will have a monitor that will be able to show advertisements, videos and images.
We hope that this interesting project will be successful and believe it could change the face of metal 3D printing. Check out the indiegogo page for more information on the I-AM printer.