What is the 3DMetalCreator?
The 3DMetalCreator is a creativity tool that allows you to easily create 3D metal objects by extruding a thick metal paste. The BRONZpaste3D cartridges were originally developed for use in the Mini Metal Maker developed by David Hartkop. David told me that the Mini Metal Maker should be available in November, 2015 for about $1500. The 3DMetalCreator is being developed to create 3D objects by hand.
What is metal paste? Metal paste consists of very small metal particles mixed with a binder, water, and other materials. It is softer version of metal clay. When the paste is dried, it is somewhat flexible and can be refined or modified using simple hand tools like those used for metal clay.
During firing, the metal particles join together into solid metal. Since the end result is metal, standard metal working techniques such as filing, drilling, polishing, soldering, welding and adding patinas can be used.
In our paste and clay, all components, except for the metal powder, are on the US FDA GRAS list. GRAS stands for Generally Recognized As Safe for addition to food and pharmaceuticals.
Why bronze and silver paste? Bronze has several advantages over other metals. Our bronze is an alloy of 90% copper and 10% tin which is very strong and hard. The word ‘bronze’ has become generic today and often refers to many alloys of copper, and even materials that only have a bronze color but contain no actual metal.
Technically, our bronze is tin-bronze which has been in use since 3150 BCE as tools and weapons. The early Iron Age weapons were no match for the tin-bronze weapons used during the Bronze Age. Tin-bronze is currently used where strength and corrosion resistance are important, e.g. ocean going ships.
• Tin-bronze is much stronger and harder than silver, copper or iron.
• Tin-bronze has a color similar to 18 karat gold.
• Tin-bronze requires a lower firing temperature than iron or steel.
• Tin-bronze is tarnish and corrosion resistant.
Recently, silver paste has been frequently requested by beta testers of the 3DMetalCreator. With your support, silver paste will be available in 2016.
What is metal clay?
All metal clays consist of very small metal particles with a binder, water, and other materials. The same methods of production used for pottery clay can be used with metal clay. Unlike pottery clay, dried metal clay pieces can be joined by wetting the surfaces and pressing them together. You can also add wet metal clay to dried metal clay. You can also add metal paste to metal clay using the 3DMetalCreator. After firing, metal clay or metal paste can be added to the resulting metal object. The added clay or paste will strongly bond to the existing metal by re-firing. The giraffe was made by this method.
Two Japanese companies, Mitsubishi and Aida, have sold silver clay for over two decades. We invented BRONZclay in 2006 and started selling it in 2008. We developed BRONZclay so the metal clay community would have a different color metal and a less expensive alternative to silver. We also developed COPPRclay and White COPPRclay. We have manufactured more than 22 tons of metal clay which is used world-wide by the metal clay community. You can Google metal clay to find out much more.
Metal clays provide a means for using the techniques of Powder Metallurgy in the home studio or workshop.
What is Powder Metallurgy?
Powder Metallurgy uses small metal particles to make solid metal objects. Tens of pounds of parts in today’s automobiles are made using Powder Metallurgy. One technique used for production is called ‘press and sinter’, where the powder is pressed into a shape and then fired in a reducing atmosphere to make solid metal parts.
A more recent production method is powder injection molding. The metal powder is mixed with wax, heated and forced into a mold. After cooling the part, the wax is burned off and the item fired to produce solid metal object.
There is some evidence of use of Powder Metallurgy in ancient times to make objects out of iron and precious metals. The first modern use of powder metallurgy was the production of tungsten filaments for light bulbs by Thomas Edison.
Will other metal pastes be available in the future?
Yes! We have already had lots of requests from the beta testers for a silver paste. With your support, part of the funds from this Kickstarter campaign will be used to develop the silver paste. Our future plans include developing copper and a white copper pastes. Development of steel and stainless steel pastes may be considered if there are enough requests to justify the development costs.
Can I use a torch instead of a kiln?
Yes! Torch firing bronze paste requires a reducing flame in addition to considerable skill and time. Torch firing of silver paste also requires skill and time since the temperature required for firing is near the melting point of silver. We certainly recommend kiln firing for beginners as well as experienced artisans.
How can I get access to a kiln?
Most cities have pottery studios in art centers, schools, and potters’ homes. Many of these are available for use for a small fee. Doing a Google search on BRONZclay with the name of your city will enable you to find metal clay artists near you who may be willing to fire your pieces.
Can I use compressed air instead of CO2?
Yes! We chose to use a CO2 tank instead of an air compressor for three reasons. Air compressors are noisy! Air compressors use electricity. Finally, air compressors that are able to provide the necessary pressure of 100-120 PSI (6.8-8.3 bar) are expensive. The 3DMetalCreator is silent and uses no electricity. We want those on a limited budget to be able to play and create! Refilling the 20 oz. CO2 tanks is about $4 at Dick’s and Sport Authority.
With the appropriate fittings however, you can use compressed air as a source of power for the 3DMetalCreator
Has the 3DMetalCreator been beta tested?
Extensively! Many of the items pictured here were made by our more than a dozen beta testers around the world.
Why do some rewards only ship to USA and Canada?
Most other countries restrict shipping and import of full CO2 tanks. We thought that shipping empty tanks would solve this problem.
Unfortunately, filling the empty tanks with CO2 is not possible in many countries outside of the USA and Canada. A temporary solution to this problem is to provide the 3DMetalCreator with an adapter and two disposable 90 gm CO2 tanks that can be shipped to most countries. Since we want artists worldwide to be able to try the 3D MetalCreator as soon as possible we have added a reward with this option. Our beta testers in The Netherlands, England and France are attempting to solve this problem for us.
How was the 3DMetalCreator developed?
I have dreamed of being able to use our metal clay with a 3D printer. Metal Adventures purchased an UP! 3D printer in February, 2012. Since then, we have purchased an additional six printers for research and development purposes.
After a half dozen failed attempts getting these 3D printers to print our clay, I read about the Mini Metal Maker created by David Hartkop in Pueblo, Colorado. David’s 3D printer was being designed to use metal clay! David became interested in my developing a metal paste, loaded in cartridges for use in the Mini Metal Maker. The result was a strong cartridge loaded with 50 gm of bronze paste. I’ll spare you the failures, gory details and about my trip to Colorado.
Most of the people using our clay want to create items by hand in their home studios and workshops. 3D printing, on the other hand, has a very steep learning curve that requires the use of 3D design software, and a detailed consideration of how to print. Could I develop a tool to allow the bronze paste-filled cartridges to be used by hand?
The first version of the 3DMetalCreator used an air compressor and a programmable electronic device made for dispensing solder paste. Nathan Perea, who works at Rio Grande, suggested using a small compressed oxygen cylinder to replace the air compressor. These cylinders are widely available at hardware stores. Unfortunately, they contain only 1.4 oz. (40 gm) of gas, and they are not refillable.
What I wanted was a refillable tank that contained a gas that liquefies under pressure at room temperature. Butane, propane, sulfur dioxide, ammonia gas, and carbon dioxide (CO2) are all gasses that are available in liquid form in refillable tanks. The first two are flammable; the second two are toxic; leaving CO2 as an option. Because I read and research a lot, I found Steve Lindsay’s hand engraving tool called the AirGraver. The AirGraver is powered by a 20 oz. CO2 tank fitted with a pressure regulator. This is an ideal power source for the 3DMetalCreator!
My next version of the 3DMetalCreator had an electric solenoid valve attached to the pressure regulator on the CO2 tank. The solenoid was controlled by an electric foot switch plugged into a wall outlet. Metal clay artists live all over the world – the electric solenoid required the 120 volt, US current to operate, so different versions would be needed for different countries.
In our most recent design of the 3DMetalCreator, the solenoid and foot switch are replaced with a pneumatic foot valve that makes the 3DMetalCreator independent of electricity.
This is the current design we are offering in our Kickstarter campaign. Your support and funding will make it possible for us at Metal Adventures coupled with Cool Tools to move forward with production on a bigger scale.
How will the funds from this campaign be used? From our previous experience manufacturing 3DMetalCreators for the beta testers, we are confident that we will be able to produce sufficient 3DMetalCreators to satisfy the December, 2015 rewards. We also have experience producing the BRONZpaste3D cartridges for the Mini Metal Maker. Both production methods are very labor intensive. We need funds to scale up production and to create a 3DMetalCreator community.
We produce the bronze paste by methods similar to those used in the production of our metal clays. The BRONZpaste3D cartridges, on the other hand, are filled with paste from the tip so as not to introduce air. The paste is very thick and contains metal particles and is therefore not suitable for currently available cartridge filling equipment. We have developed our own equipment to fill cartridges and need funds to scale the production. We also have noticed air in a few cartridges and we need to improve the filling process to avoid this.
We have literally tons of experience developing copper based metal clay and have made test batches of silver clay. Due to the requests of our beta testers we plan to use our own funds and those from this campaign to complete the development of silver paste to load into cartridges.
Risks and challenges
Metal Adventures is on the east coast and we have had six hurricanes in the last twenty-four years. The campaign will end before hurricane season does. If we are struck by one, there could be a delay of weeks or longer depending on the extent of damage. Although we have no control of the weather, we plan to alert those who support us as soon as possible in this unlikely situation.
We have the parts and materials on hand to meet all of the December awards. Unforeseen problems may occur in the manufacture and quality testing of the 3DMetalCreators. Any problems encountered will be shared with our supporters.
March and later rewards depend on receiving the parts and materials on time. Delays for the later rewards can also be due to problems in the manufacture and quality testing of the 3DMetalCreators. All March or later deliveries will be notified if we do experience delays.
Although we have begun the development of the silver paste, it is a new formulation and may take longer than we project. Delays in our timeline for the development of silver paste will be communicated to those who have chosen rewards that include the silver paste cartridges.
- (25 days)