The Metalbot Project: an open source initiative...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jethro, Apr 26, 2013.

  1. jethro
    jethro New Member
    Hi everyone!

    I would just like to introduce the Metalbot Project, the first open initiative of it's kind, to design and create a 3D Printer capable of making metal parts (in titanium, tool steel etc)...

    Ok, so it's well known that two limiting factors with 3D printing have always been a - strength of the printed parts and b - part resolution. We are hoping to solve both of these problems by designing printer that works through a process called 'laser sintering' (although a few other avenues are being pursued).

    Ideally we want to make this available to a wide range of people.

    As an open source project the information is given free and taken free.

    We are at the very early stages and need people who are interested in this subject to come forward and add their thoughts on the subject. Already we have had very clever suggestions that have improved the design greatly but there is a mountain of work still. Any knowledge could save a lot of time!

    So specifically we are looking for experts in machining (some precision machining), physics (Laser physics and powder physics), programming and software, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering etc...

    I would be more than happy to answer any questions!

    Best regards,

  2. lensman
    lensman Well-Known Member
    Okay, admittedly, I didn't click on your link to the website, but what is the point of this, quickly? There are already printers that exist that print in metal - including titanium, brass, bronze and gold...

  3. Bathsheba
    Bathsheba Well-Known Member
    That it's open source.
  4. lensman
    lensman Well-Known Member
    Okay... an open source project for people to contribute their free time to create an object that already exists that no-one else can use unless they buy one... Unlike Blender, for example, that is an open source project that I or anyone else can use for free by downloading the software.

  5. BillBedford
    BillBedford New Member
    Well, a metal printing machine is never going to be the sort of kit you could run in your bedroom.........
  6. Bathsheba
    Bathsheba Well-Known Member
    ...but I'd still like there to be more of them!
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  7. lensman
    lensman Well-Known Member
    Agreed... perhaps they are attempting to greatly advance the present technology.
  8. jethro
    jethro New Member
    Hi guys!

    Nice to see some discussion on this!

    By making this technology open source we are making it more accessible. Perhaps not everyone will own one, but everyone will have access to one. These machines will be able to fabricate parts that are fully dense to an accuracy of <50um. That is some powerful technology!

    If you have any questions I would be glad to help :) .
  9. Maethius
    Maethius New Member
    Its about seeking a broad think-tank to invent, improve, and make common a form of manufacture. This isn't about any of us personally owning a machine to print screws and gaskets for a Ford Taurus, its about developing the technology so that we all benefit from it someday in the future. I'm all for that. For my purposes, I would love to be able to print durable, fine quality miniatures for my game, plastic or metal.
  10. PeregrineStudios
    PeregrineStudios Well-Known Member
    Never say never - a few decades ago, the computer itself was something that would never fit in a home office - or even an entire home for that matter.

    EDIT: Also, I have yet to fully examine the site, but if he's suggesting a metal printer that can be practically owned and operated by an individual rather than a company, then I'm all for it. Yes, metal printers exist, but I've yet to see one commercially available. It's commissioned use, like here on Shapeways or on i.competitive service.
    Last edited: May 11, 2013
  11. jethro
    jethro New Member
    It is about making it more accessible. If we can pull it off (quietly confident :D ) it will become a common tool you will se in most machine shops and perhaps hobbyists garages. The technology is there in the form of laser diodes and cheap computing, we just have to put it into use, be a bit clever about it.

    You can try building one in your bedroom, just be careful of argon gas and wear laser goggles :rolleyes: .

  12. Mhagan
    Mhagan New Member
    Granted I have not had a chance to tear into a DMLS machine in great detail (yet), but I believe they use a laser around 1000W. I have not heard of a laser diode that can do this. To get that sort of power you need a gas laser.

    Cheap Computing;we have. Cheap high power laser diodes; not yet.
  13. jethro
    jethro New Member
    The key is in the focus, that means the energy density of the laser beam. Current commercial systems use 200W lasers with a focus of 500um, we want to use, for example, a 50W laser diode with a focus of 100um.

    Drawback is slower printing time, but the benefit is that the laser is affordable and the parts can be made to much higher resolution specs.
  14. PeregrineStudios
    PeregrineStudios Well-Known Member
    I'm skeptical, but not because you don't seem like an untrustworthy guy - I've just been conditioned to be that way for anything new :) Nevertheless, I'll be keeping my eye on it, and perhaps contributing if possible. Initial forays and experiments like this are crucial for technologies and industries to advance and not be dominated by large corporations.
  15. UniverseBecoming
    UniverseBecoming Well-Known Member
    It's a worthwhile endeavor. I gave you a plug on a forum that I am a part of who's members work on developing DIY 3D printing methods.

    I too am working on a low cost 3D metal printing method, but I'm trying to avoid the laser aspect altogether. Laser power is great and is perfectly doable cost wise for the DIY crowd, but I like to explore untrodden territory. I prefer working on my designs alone though since there is quite a bit of profit potential for a low cost 3D metal printer. On the other hand, for others working on developing open source methods I am supportive and do participate. Whomever can get there first! :D Society needs this, we need low cost 3D metal printing so that we can further evolve. The days of these mega corporations having a strangle hold on society with their long expired patents is over! :eek: It's the price they'll pay for not sufficiently investing in innovation. ;)

  16. aeron203
    aeron203 New Member
    Giving more people access to a beneficial technology is a laudable goal. I believe this venture is well-intentioned and will be educational for many of the participants.


    We need to be aware that the results we intend are often very different from what actually occurs. I would like you all to take a moment to read the latest thoughts of Jaron Lanier, in this Salon interview. Mr. Lanier is a very wise man who contributed greatly to what has become the internet that we know today. Now, years later, he has seen many of the philosophies that he and his contemporaries espoused being boiled down into a sort of dogma that can be used toward ends that do not benefit us in the way that was intended. Much like the short-sighted reward of low priced imported goods, we may be digging our own graves if we do not stop to consider the long term effects of our actions.

    This is a subject that I have given a lot of thought to, since I witness on an almost daily basis people being asked to de-value themselves, professionally and otherwise, for a nebulous claim of greater good. After years of seeing who actually benefits from such arrangements, I can see clearly that virtually any philosophy taken to extremes can become exploitative. My conclusion is that the way I prefer to experience the joy of giving and sharing is to be the initiator. If the recipient has asked, then one is paying-in to a larger system. To whom that system will pay-out will be completely out of your control, and you had better be prepared to see it all go into one pocket.

    Am I over-thinking a simple open-source project? Perhaps. I would enjoy further discussion of the subject with anyone who has a thought to share, here or in private.

  17. jethro
    jethro New Member
    Thanks a lot guys!

    I read your thread UniverseBecoming, a great discussion :)

    As you mentioned lasers are our biggest challenge... alternatives are electron beams, induction heating and using an arc to melt the metal powder...

    @ aeron203, watch this very informed video if you have not already:

    One of my major reasons for starting the community is to gather all of the relevant information into one easy to use place. Once that is done we can build on it and design a working prototype. So we are essentially in the education and documentation phase of the project.


  18. UniverseBecoming
    UniverseBecoming Well-Known Member
    Induction I had not thought of, strangely. It's actually a very good idea if a way can be found to focus the energy!

    The other methods you've listed I've thought of and I am investigating into these areas along with two things that haven't been thought of yet.

    Open source is wonderful! I have contributed in various ways to numerous open source projects over the years. When it comes to hardware though the first person that has enough resources to release the first batch or initiate a successful crowd sourced campaign is the person that makes the main profit. If the community would adopted a clause into open source hardware development where no profit could be made then I think that would be more in the spirit of open source.

    What about Shapeways? What will happen to Shapeways when everyone has robust 3D printing available to them at little or no cost? I think Shapeways would be forced to actually operate in the way the founders envisioned with the Shapeways shops rather than making a profit on 3D printing itself like it is currently doing and the shops are more of an barely functional side business. Shapeways, in order to survive, will need to cut lead times down to a few days and profits for 3D printing will need to be cut way down as well. The reason for this is the non tangible nature of the machine operation instructions. Designers will be selling their 3D files for next to nothing to the masses that now have cheap 3D printing available to them.

  19. BillBedford
    BillBedford New Member
    The same thing that happened to clothing sweatshops when everybody had a sewing machine....
  20. UniverseBecoming
    UniverseBecoming Well-Known Member
    Hi Bill,

    What do you mean by that in your last reply? I can think of some interpretations, but nothing that stands out to me as being obvious.