The above picture is a rendering of what the i-AM 3D Printer would look like if it could make it into the world. The “i-AM” in i-AM 3D stands for ink additive manufacturing and it represents a potential revolution in desktop 3D printing. That is, if its Indiegogo campaign is successful.
Traditional powder bed metal printers require a great deal of powder material with which to laser sinter into 3D objects. The entire enclosure that is the print area is filled with powder, the object is sintered and then removed, and the excess powder is used for the next round of printing. In the end, much more material is required to create an object than makes up the object itself, making the purchase of such material very costly.
South African Makers George Kriel and Peter Brier think that they have found a way to bring metal 3D printing to the masses. As their Indiegogo campaign states, “i-AM 3D uses a liquid ink as material that is deposited with an inkjet printhead according to the design. The ink is then cured (sintered) by means of a laser that is guided by galvanometer scanners.” To print with the precious metal ink, however, “you would only need the amount of material that is needed to make the part and between 2 and 3 % extra.”
The duo has already developed gold, palladium, and platinum inks, all of which are conductive, and are planning on titanium and aluminum alloys, as well. They’re still in need of the proper print head with drive electronics, a high powered laser, a galvanometer scanner, and software, but have put together a good deal of the electronic and mechanical parts, as you can see in the video below:
If you contribute to their campaign, depending on how much you give them, your logo or name will be “part of the livery of the machine” or displayed on its monitor. It’ll be hard to know whether or not their version of liquid metal is a pipedream unless they reach their $22,000 goal.