3D Print metal on a sample scale with The Virtual Foundry’s Filamet Evaluation Kit

This week, The Virtual Foundry (TVF) is announcing an interesting new product, an FFF Metal 3D Printing Evaluation Kit

The package includes a completed metal part and all of the consumables required to 3D print your own metal part. You will need access to a filament based (FFF/FDM) 3D printer. If you don’t have access to a kiln, you can send it back to The Virtual Foundry and they will sinter it for you and send it back.

How The VIrtual Foundry’s Filamet Evaluation Kit works. Image via The Virtual Foundry.
How The VIrtual Foundry’s Filamet Evaluation Kit works. Image via The Virtual Foundry.

Over the past 7 years The Virtual Foundry has earned a reputation as a flexible, ultra low cost method of 3D printing metal, glass and ceramic parts. Their approach is different from systems like those from Desktop Metal and Markforged. The Virtual Foundry maintains an open architecture philosophy with open lines of communication and a sense of community. 

The company focuses on creating materials (Filamet), and curates user-generated information on how to debind and sinter parts into the ideal final product. Much of the sintering process has been developed by a dedicated user base. At present, the published debind and sinter methodology is based on an expanding list of theses, studies, dissertations, and other published papers.

A search of the Google Scholarly database returns dozens of links to papers directly referencing The Virtual Foundry. When considered from this perspective, you can think of TVF as much a concept as it is a product.

Currently TVF’s key applications are in military, research and academia. However, the ultra low cost, open model, and simplicity make it the metal printing solution with the lowest barrier to entry. This simplicity and accessibility brings metal printing to a much wider audience than ever before.

“Right now we’re seeing increasing growth in high schools, Fab Labs, community colleges, and even home users. This market is a great fit,” said Bradley Woods, Founder/CEO of The Virtual Foundry, inc. “Every school has 3D printers. By using our approach, these users can expand into metal AM without massive capital outlay and with minimal learning curve.”

With the Evaluation Kit, you can follow the instructions to sinter your part using any simple, low-cost, hobby-grade kilns often used in ceramics, glass, precious metal clay. Or you can send your print back to The Virtual Foundry for sintering. Sintering your print is free for anyone in the continental U.S., or at the cost of return shipping for those around the world.

The future of this technology is becoming more and more interesting. TVF users can be found on YouTube and Reddit experimenting with sintering metal 3D prints in common household microwave ovens.

“Microwave sintering has the potential to effectively remove our already low barrier to entry for 3D metal printing,” added Bradley Woods, Founder/CEO of The Virtual Foundry, inc. “Innovative makers experimenting in their basements are achieving greater and greater sinters with simple, household microwaves. Once we can sinter in a microwave, the barrier to entry is reduced to a trip to Walmart or Amazon. Our community is incredibly innovative and is already having intermittent success. A stable recipe is coming.”

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Featured image shows a diagram indicating how The VIrtual Foundry’s Filamet Evaluation Kit works. Image via The Virtual Foundry.