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3D Printing in Titanium: What’s Next, Unobtanium?

by Paul Strauss
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Ever wanted to print something using one of those 3D material printers, but didn’t like how it just spat out some sort of weird plastic composite? Well thanks to new advances in the technology, you can now print 3D objects out of sturdy titanium. Sweet.

3d_printing_titanium_1

i.materialise has launched the first consumer service which allows you to print in titanium. The service uses a process called Direct Metal Laser Sintering (or DMLS), which involves laying down a thin layer of titanium powder, which is then sintered by a very strong laser, layer-by-layer, until your 3D object is complete. There’s some manual machining involved in removing the titanium part from its support structure and then polishing it, but the core process is all done using 3D printing. The DMLS process can output objects as large as 27 x 25 x 43 cm, and objects can be as thin as 0.2mm. With a melting point of 1660 Celsius, you won’t have to worry about these models distorting from heat either.

While the process is cool for creating metal models, the early examples i.materialize provided are a couple of jewelry pieces fabricated using the process:

3d_printing_titanium_2

The first piece is a metal grid called “HeartGrid” which can be customized to position the heart in any position on the grid to signify a special date, and “OurPlace” is a map of the US, with your heart placed at the coordinates of your choice:

3d_printing_titanium_3

The process of printing titanium in 3D isn’t cheap though, with a 2cm x 2cm x 4cm part, and a volume of 1 cubic cm, it will cost you about $124 (USD). Prices vary on the basis of size and volume of your model, and you can upload your design here for printing. Full tech specs can be found here.

Me, I’d love to have a tiny Pac-Man and his ghost pals made out of solid titanium. I think I’d go broke ordering them, but it would make me happy.

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