Last May, while most 3D printers out there were churning out plastic creations the size of a football, Joris Laarman Lab and its collaborators brought us MATAERIAL, a 3D printer capable of seemingly defying gravity. Capable of printing on any surface, even the ceiling, this off-the-wall (you're welcome) 3D printer created sculptured shapes out of resin. Nine months later, we're now privy to MATAERIAL's next evolution: the MX3D-Metal.
The new 3D printer is once again built onto the frame of an industrial robot arm. The robot, which was likely originally designed to weld car door hinges or some such thing, has retained its welding tech, but has been outfitted with an extruder capable of feeding the printhead a handful of metals. Aluminum, bronze, copper, steel and stainless steel can all be fed to the welding equipment and, slowly but surely, crafted into ribbons of cooling metal.
The MX3D-Metal is designed to compensate for the differing strengths of its metal "inks" as well as how it might need to adjust pulse times and layer height for differing curves during a print. Compared to other 3D printers, the process can take a very long time, as the metal needs to partially cool before it can be built upon. Then again, the rules of structural integrity that usually govern the creation of a print inside a desktop 3D printer simply don't apply here. One line of metal can be printed and later made to intersect with another, adding structural integrity.
Given enough time, we imagine that the MX3D-Metal could craft some seriously complex and sturdy metal frameworks, even those that might be used in constructing the unique, futuristic homes we currently only tend to see in sci-fi.