Father and son inventors Scott and Zackery Vader have created a revolutionary 3D printer that can create designs out of molten metal! The Vader 3D printer uses molten aluminum in place of plastic, and it can easily create complex forms without the need for lasers or fancy anodizing processes.
The Vader printer uses a thermal chamber to melt aluminum, and then it uses magnetism to extrude the metal onto the printing bed. The metal shoots out in quick jets, forming a solid object in the same way an inkjet printer creates an image on paper. The printer has a maximum build volume of 250mm (or nearly 10-inches) cubed.
The printer itself is massive. It has a heavy granite counter top to handle high heat and it uses a big hexagonal metal plate as its print bed. When we spoke to Zack Vader at Maker Faire in September, he said the inspiration for their printer came from a 1997 University of Texas at Arlington research paper on Liquid Metal Jet Printing.
Up until now the only way to print a metal object was through laser sintering, which uses a laser to fuse fine metal powder into a complete block. 3D printing giant Shapeways has developed a way to glue metal powder together and then replace the glue with bronze, and other makers have found ways to embed an extrudable 3d printer filament with iron filings.
Images © Kevin Lee for Inhabitat