Today we can 3D-print virtually anything from any material: a house out of concrete, a human cornea out of a bio-ink… you name it.
But one of the most common construction material, metal, has not been tamed yet. There’s no mass market 3D printer that can create objects out of metal just as easily as with with plastic.
However, researchers from Yale University think they’ve come up with a way to make 3D printing metal objects easier than ever before.
The biggest problem with metals is they aren’t typical found in an easily “printable” state — it’s just not easy to get them soft enough to make into different shapes. To get around this issue, the researchers turned to bulk metallic glasses (BMGs).
A BMG is a type of metallic material that doesn’t exhibit the same rigid atomic structure as most metal alloys. This means BMGs can soften more easily than most other metals, but they are still strong as solid metals.
The team claims it has already successfully tested its 3D printing system with various other BMGs. The next step is making the process more practical- and commercially-usable.
The applications for a device that makes 3D printing metal simple are practically limitless. Imagine a mechanic could simply fabricate the needed part while you wait at the shop; makers could print metallic parts for engineering projects from their garages.
So, we may have entered the metal age again.